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Ghana hopes Gyan ready to return from malaria bout

January 22, 2015

BATA, Equatorial Guinea (AP) — Ghana really needs Asamoah Gyan now.

After a last-minute 2-1 loss to Senegal to open its African Cup of Nations, the four-time champion is under pressure to recover and make the quarterfinals in Equatorial Guinea.

Next up is top-ranked African team Algeria on Friday, with Gyan’s availability for the second round of Group C games still uncertain after he was diagnosed with mild malaria last weekend and sat out the loss to Senegal.

Ghana would happily welcome the return of its captain and lead striker for the Algerian test. Against Senegal, the Ghanaians looked fragile and were eventually overpowered by a bigger, stronger Senegalese team to lose to a stoppage-time winner in Mongomo.

“Gyan is a very important player for us. A leader, our captain,” stand-in skipper Andre Ayew said.

Although Algeria also started slowly and fell behind against South Africa, the last 20 minutes of its ultimately comfortable 3-1 win showed what Africa’s No. 1 team can do. Following a sluggish first hour, Algeria found its groove to completely dominate the South Africans in the closing stages at Mongomo Stadium.

Algeria will be closely watched by the other contenders having arrived at this tournament with a big buildup following its impressive World Cup,

One of those could be Senegal.

The Senegalese were largely overlooked in the tough group as Algeria and Ghana took the attention. That’s swiftly changed after Senegal showed physicality and powerful forward play by striker Mame Biram Diouf to come from behind and beat Ghana, and it is now the favorite to beat South Africa.

“It’s very simple,” said Senegal goalkeeper and captain Bouna Coundoul. “We know that we are capable of beating any team in this competition.”

South Africa has to pick itself up from perhaps the most demoralizing result for any of the four teams.

Bafana Bafana led Algeria 1-0, but missed a penalty and a chance to double its lead, then conceded an own goal and two more late strikes to go down 3-1.

“Stressing about the penalty won’t help anyone,” said striker Tokelo Rantie, who missed the pivotal spot-kick to inspire Algeria’s comeback. “I just need to be mentally strong. But I am very excited about the next game. That is my focus right now.”

South Africa has also lost central defender Rivaldo Coetzee for the Senegal game to a right knee injury, although defender Eric Mathoho and experienced midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane are back from suspension.

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