JOHANNESBURG (AP) – Ghana and Mali have to lift themselves from bitter disappointment for another third-place match at the African Cup of Nations after falling in the semifinals for the second straight year.
The teams will have played each other four times in two tournaments by the end of Saturday's bronze-medal match in Port Elizabeth after twice being grouped together and then twice meeting in the match no team wants to play.
Ghana's single shining light following a painful loss on penalties to Burkina Faso in the last four will be whether young midfielder Wakaso Mubarak can end as top scorer on his tournament debut, having given Ghana victory over Mali in their group match.
Espanyol's Wakaso is tied with Nigeria's Emmanuel Emenike on four goals in South Africa with one game for each to play.
However, Emenike remains an injury doubt for Sunday's final at Soccer City after helping to end Mali's hopes of a first title in the first semi, when the Malians were beaten 4-1 having raised hopes that they might make their first final in over 40 years.
Ghana's devastated players will need help to be ready for the third-place match at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, assistant coach Maxwell Konadu said, after blowing a lead against the Burkinabes in Wednesday's semifinals.
''We have to go out there and compete with Mali again,'' Konadu said after the shootout loss in Nelspruit. ''All the boys are down at the moment and we as a technical team will try and bring them up psychologically and physically. Most of them were hurt.''
Also hurting was Ghana coach and former international Kwesi Appiah, who didn't appear at the post-match news conference after defeat to the underdog Burkinabes.
''Definitely, we'll be down right now but we'll psyche ourselves up,'' captain Asamoah Gyan said.
Mali was outplayed by Nigeria in Durban, but it may have a little more motivation than Ghana for their final game, as the Malians have dedicated their uplifting campaign to their conflict-torn home country.
''It is tough for us accept (losing to Nigeria), especially because we had an entire country rooting for us and hoping that we would win,'' Mali captain Seydou Keita said.
''All we can do now is to try and analyze this game and try and get the third place in the competition, and bring the joy we failed to give to our people.''
Mali won third place at the last tournament having also lost to Ghana in the group stages.
Follow Gerald Imray at http://twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP