GUWAHATI: On a day goalkeeping errors should have been the highlight, turf became the talking point at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium. It was as much a test for the ground as for Mali and Ghana, following 24 hours of almost incessant rain.
Conditions were such that there were talks the quarterfinal might be postponed to the reserve day. Scenes of the ground staff sweeping water off the surface and spraying sawdust before kick-off lent credence to such talks.
Thanks to the underground drainage system, puddles did not form, despite a downpour that kept getting heavy. Due to this, the ball did not float, but it stopped awkwardly, forcing players to adjust to the lack of bounce and rolling. The Ghana camp felt the match should have been called off. Mali did not say that after the 2-1 win, but agreed that conditions were difficult.
Rules state that for a match to be called off, the ball has to float. While that was not the case, conditions were difficult, as the ball started stopping almost from the first minute. Passing became a tricky proposition and players had to make late adjustments while releasing and receiving the ball. It was particularly troublesome near the flanks along the centre line, where the ball was hardly moving.
Mali were the better side in terms of probing the opposition and looked more compact in defence and midfield. But they were lucky to see Ghana keeper Danlad Ibrahim concede at the near post, before a shocking error in judgement resulted in the second goal.
With no sheds in vast parts of the stands, many of the 3706 (official attendance) spectators had a tough time. The rain was persistent and the breeze made people shiver in the uncovered areas. While officials can take credit for laying a pitch with a smart drainage system, sparing a thought for those who watch should be the next consideration.