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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 January 2006, 19:10 GMT
Ghana 1-2 Zimbabwe
Vera Kwakofi
BBC Sport, Ismailia Stadium

Ghana's John Pantsil (r) challenges Benjani for the ball
Ghana's John Pantsil (r) challenges Benjani for the ball

Ghana became the third World Cup-bound team to fail to go past the group stages at the African Cup of Nations after losing to 2-1 to Zimbabwe on Tuesday in Ismailia.

The Warriors, who were yet to earn their first point at the tournament, looked the stronger side from the start in their final Group D match.

Veteran captain Peter Ndlovu and Portsmouth's Benjamin "Benjani" Mwaruwari spear-headed the Zimbabwean attack which terrorised the Ghanaian half intermittently.

With the Black Stars defence under pressure, Zimbabwe were put 1-0 ahead by a 59th minute goal by Ghana defender Issah Ahmed.

Ghana's woes were compounded in the 69th minute when Benjani ran on to a loose ball on the edge of the area and calmly slotted the ball into the net to put Zimbabwe 2-0 up.

With captain Stephen Appiah half-fit and and Laryea Kingston suspended, the Ghanaian midfield looked non-existent for most of the match, as Zimbabwe worked hard to earn their first win of the competition.

Ghana's first serious attack on the Zimbabwe goal was scuppered by Appiah, who was in the right place to latch on to a bouncing ball in the area - but he chose to blast his first-time shot and could not keep it down.

Zimbabwe had the chance to go 1-0 up in the 37th minute with Sammy Adjei pulling an acrobatic save to keep out Zvenyika Makonese's powerfully-struck free-kick which was heading for the top corner.

Peter Ndlovu whipped in a brilliant cross moments later but Benjani wasted another golden opportunity to put Zimbabwe ahead.

Ghana were barely hanging on at half time and the same pattern continued after the restart, with their defence looking out of their depth for long spells.

With the game in injury time, Zimbabwe had cause to hope for a miraculous quarter-final berth but Benjani's goal was flagged offside by the linesman.

Ghana eventually found the back of the net though Baba Adamu's spectacular strike but with only seconds to go before the referee's final whistle, it was nothing more than a consolation for the Black Stars.

Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic:
"We were under pressure, we could have qualified with victory or a draw but Zimbabwe did not have that pressure and played well.

"We did not play well but this has nothing to do with the World Cup as it is still a long way away. We were missing several key players after all.

Zimbabwe coach Charles Mhlauri:
"We are very disappointed. We could have qualified but we were unlucky.

"We tried to score the third goal. The referee disallowed one and if we had been on the scoreboard I don't think they would have scored and we would have gone through."

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