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Supersub Kwabena stars as Ghana stay in Olympics race

Ghana Olympic Games qualifying tournament hero Owusu Kwabena (R) playing against Guinea-Bissau in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFP Photo/FADEL SENNA)

Johannesburg (AFP) - Owusu Kwabena came off the bench to score twice in a 2-0 win over Mali on Thursday that took Ghana closer to a first appearance at the Olympic Games football tournament since 2004.

The victory, coupled with Cameroon losing 2-1 to hosts Egypt at another Cairo stadium, gave Ghana second place in Group A by the slenderest of margins.

Ghana and Cameroon finished level on four points -- five behind Egypt -- but the Black Meteors (plus one) edged the Indomitable Cubs (level) on goal difference.

The Ghanaians were indebted to Spain-based Kwabena, and Egypt wonder boy Aftmost Mohamed, who scored both goals for his team, with Eric Auk levelling for Cameroon in between.

It was a thrilling finish to the mini-league in an eight-nation tournament, which will decide which three countries represent Africa at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Group B is also going down to the wire with South Africa (four points), Ivory Coast, Nigeria (three each) and Zambia (one) all in contention for top-two finishes and semi-finals places.

On Friday, South Africa face long-time nemesis Nigeria and the Ivory Coast meet Zambia in matches that will kick off simultaneously.

- Two chances -

The four survivors from the first round will have two chances to punch a ticket to the Tokyo Games -- they can qualify by winning a semi-final or the third place play-off.

Ghana trailed Cameroon by three points going into the final round, meaning they had to win while hoping Egypt would do them a huge favour and beat Cameroon.

By half-time, it was not looking good for the Meteors as they were being held goalless by out-of-contention Mali while Cameroon and Egypt were deadlocked having scored once each.

Ghana coach Ibrahim Tano then made a master move by introducing Kwabena from Spanish lower league club Cordoba in a bid to penetrate an increasingly stubborn Malian defence.

Kwabena ended the stalemate on 74 minutes, by which time Cameroon had fallen behind for a second time against Egypt, and he sealed victory with a second goal four minutes from time.

Meanwhile, Egypt triumphed 2-1, allowing Ghana to keep alive hopes of a seventh appearance at the Olympics football competition.

Mohamed increased his Group A goal haul to four by twice converting crosses, after 27 minutes with his right foot and five minutes into the second half with his head.

Cameroon equalised on 37 minutes when Auk punished slack marking to score after a corner.