Ghana have secured their place at the Africa Cup of Nations after a 1-1 draw away to South Africa in a Group C qualifier played at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Thursday.
The result guarantees the Black Stars a place in the top two of the group, while Bafana Bafana and Sudan will scrap over the remaining berth at the next AFCON when they meet in a crunch game in Omdurman on Sunday.
South Africa should have claimed the lead in the fifth minute, with Themba Zwane doing great work to tee up Thapelo Morena with a clear chance in the penalty area, but the wingback struck his effort into the side netting.
Another fine chance for the hosts arrived in the 19th minute, with Sifiso Hlanti’s cross from the left picking out Percy Tau, but the diminutive striker couldn’t get over the header and direct an effort on target. Less than 60 seconds later Hlanti sent a thunderbolt on target from just outside the 18-yard box, but Ghana goalkeeper Razak Abalora made a sharp save to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Bafana suffered an injury blow inside the opening half hour when midfielder Andile Jali succumbed to what looked to be either or a groin or thigh problem, with Ben Motshwari rising off the bench to make his senior international debut.
Ghana grew into the game as it progressed, though they struggled to create openings for the likes of Mohammed Kudus and Emmanuel Gyasi, with SA goalkeeper Ronwen Williams rarely called into action in a first half which ended goalless.
The Black Stars introduced Osman Bukari off the bench at the start of the second half, and they claimed the lead within four minutes of the restart: Kudus received a pass from right-back Benson Annang, shifted past one defender and stabbed home a low shot which went in via the inside of the post.
Bafana Bafana hit back almost immediately, levelling the game at 1-1 in the 52nd minute: Ruzaigh Gamildien put Tau into space on the right of the penalty area and the striker sent a low effort past the right hand of Abalora, cleverly shooting through the legs of a defender.
The teams traded further chances in what remained of the game – with Afriyie Acquah notably shooting wide on 78 minutes, shortly before Innocent Maela’s long-range hit was saved by Abalora – but the sides ultimately settled for a share of the spoils.
The teams will return to Group C action on Sunday, 28 March, with Ghana hosting Sao Tome & Principe and South Africa visiting Sudan.
South Africa (0) 1 (Tau 52’)
Ghana (0) 1 (Kudus 49’)
SA: Williams, Hlatshwayo, Xulu, Maela, Morena, Jali (Motshwari 25’), Coetzee, Hlanti, Zwane (Maboe 89’), Tau Gamildien (Singh 64’)
Ghana: Abalora, Annang, N. Opoku, Ganiyu, Rahman, Acquah, K. Opoku (Bukari 46’), Wakaso, Ekuban (Lomotey 73’), Kudus, Gyasi (Boateng 89’)