Essien sees Ghana through

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The Independent Football

Ghana and Guinea joined Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals of the African Nations Cup yesterday. The hosts beat Morocco 2-0 while Guinea progressed after a 1-1 draw against Namibia.

Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari scored first-half goals for Ghana in Accra, while Souleymane Youla's goal was enough to steer Guinea through, despite a late equaliser from Namibia's Brian Brendell.

Ghana go into the last eight with a maximum nine points from three Group A games and gathering a momentum that could make the hosts hard to stop.

At the heart of yesterday's comfortable win was Essien. "I am doing my best for the team to get the three points," said the Chelsea midfielder. "I think we are improving. If we continue, we could win the cup. We are ready to meet any team."

The Ghana coach, Claude Le Roy, was full of praise for his team's performance and their spirit. He said: "It's the best game we've played since I've been in Ghana. They played so well and were so dedicated. There was a huge solidarity between them."

Essien scored in the 26th minute and created the second goal just before half-time, bursting through midfield to set up Muntari, who beat Nadir Lamyaghri at his near post. The Atlas Lions goalkeeper was slow to react to both Ghana's goals. "I can't talk about a match because there was not one, we totally failed," lamented Morocco's coach, Henri Michel. "We didn't win a single tackle and didn't put two passes together. The analysis is severe: it's a failure."

In Sekondi, Youla took Mamadou Dioulde Bah's pass in the 62nd minute and beat Namibia's goalkeeper, Attiel Mbaha, from close range. Brendell equalised in the 81st minute against the run of play.

"We came so close to making a big surprise," said the Namibia coach, Arie Schans. "I think there certainly is hope in this young team." The Brave Warriors, making only their second tournament appearance, have done better than expected despite their early elimination.

"It was the best game we have played so far," said Guinea coach Robert Nouzaret, who had to make do without his suspended captain, the influential Pascal Feindundo. "I think the goal we conceded was an individual mistake."

Senegal's failure to qualify for the knockout stages following Sunday's defeat to Angola led to the resignation yesterday of their coach Henryk Kasperczak. Senegal, had been touted as one of the favourites to win the tournament.

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