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Football: Demoralised Ghana seek strength to face Mali

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Ghana, down and out after their shock semi-final loss to Burkina Faso here Wednesday, will pick thermselves up to face Mali in the third-place play-off, assistant coach Maxwell Konadu said.

Despair was etched all over captain Asamoah Gyan's face at the post-match press conference following the 3-2 penalty shootout loss to a team ranked 66 rungs below them in FIFA's world table.

The defeat leaves them heading down to Port Elizabeth for the bronze-medal tie on Saturday rather than lining up in Soweto's Soccer City 24 hours later against Nigeria in the final.

Ghana arrived at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations with high hopes of securing their first title for 31 years, but instead face a repeat of last year when they finished fourth after losing 2-0 to Mali in a play-off.

Konadu said it was up to him, head coach Kwesi Appiah and the rest of the technical staff to lift the players' morale.

"It's our responsibility to motivate the team, to encourage them. We'll do our best."

Konadu, standing in for Appiah, who was not up to attending the press conference, added: "Everyone back home was expecting us to win the Cup, but it didn't happen.

"But all is not lost. We will go out and fight against Mali for third place, and then reorganise ourselves for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers."

He praised Gyan and the rest of the team for their performance despite the painful outcome.

"The boys did their best but we lost, we will take it as men, and good luck to Burkina Faso."

Appiah, a member of the last Ghana side to win the title in 1982, later felt up to giving his reaction on domestic television.

"Burkina are a very, very good team. It was a very competitive game but we were just unlucky. We had some chances before full-time, but we did not take them," he said.

"When it comes to penalties, anything can happen. Unfortunately, we did not make it.

"I think the ambition of every coach is to try and win it, and it was my ambition to try and win it.

"I'm building the team now and looking at the performances of the players who did well. There are some young players and the future looks bright."

Gyan refused to apportion blame to the Mbombela Stadium pitch, which has come in for heavy criticism after a fungal infection killed swathes of grass before the tournament began, leaving it resembling a sandpit.

"We cannot find excuses with the pitch we only saw for the first time before the game. We came here to win but, unfortunately for us, the better side won on penalties."

The former Sunderland striker added: "I'm proud of the team, we came here to win this game and go to the final -- we're all really sad at the moment but that's only normal.

"We'll be down, but we have to psyche ourselves up again for the third place game. We'll try our best."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130206/football-demoralised-ghana-seek-strength-face-mali