PORT ELIZABETH: Four-time champions Ghana have hit form at the right time and should end the fairy tale run of Cape Verde when the teams clash on Saturday in an Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final.
After struggling in their drawn opening group game against the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Black Stars were a different class when easing past Niger 3-0 in one of their best displays in a long time.
However, coach Kwesi Appiah fired a warning shot to title rivals when he said his team are still far from their best.
“We stepped up against Niger but, with 11 debutants at this competition, we can do much better,” said the former international defender.
“There were a few details I was not happy about in our last game, a few cases of tactical indiscipline, but we are about 70 per cent toward our capability now.”
Since 2004, both teams have clashed three times with Ghana posting a perfect record against the Blue Sharks.
Last November, Ghana beat Cape Verde 1-0 in Portugal in a friendly, but Appiah said he would not read too much into that result.
“It won’t be an easy game against a physical, tactically disciplined side like Cape Verde, who have nothing to lose at this stage of the competition,” said the handler.
Ghana will be a full-strength after three injury-hit stars — Mubarak Wakaso, Anthony Annan and Richmond Boakye-Yiadom — returned to training.
Wakaso was the match-winner against Mali and also scored the only goal against Cape Verde in Lisbon last year. He missed the Niger match because of a ban, and would have been sidelined anyway by a sore knee.
Meanwhile, Mali plan to play party-poopers in the quarter-finals for the second consecutive Africa Cup of Nations when they confront hosts South Africa on Saturday before a sell-out 60,000 Durban crowd.
A year ago almost to the day, giant striker Cheick Tidiane Diabate levelled with six minutes left to force co-hosts Gabon into extra time and a penalty shootout, won by the Malian Eagles.
South Africa, like Gabon, are favourites, despite the best efforts of coach Gordon Igesund to convince the media otherwise ahead of the only last-eight fixture that is not an all-west Africa affair.