Two months after a disappointing performance from the last African Cup of Nations AFCON in Cameroon, Ghana’s Senior National team who failed to win a single game even with tournament debutants Comoros, is fighting tooth and nail to redeem its lost glory.
In the history of association football, it was the first time the four-time African champions failed to at least win a single group match in the last AFCON. It was a difficult moment for Ghanaians considering its long cup draught since the 1982 African Nations Cup finals when Ghana went for gold after beating Libya 7-6 on penalties.
Once again, the battle for supremacy is at play as nations battle it out in a fierce contest to get a slot and feature on the world football stage which is the Men’s 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The die has been cast as the third round of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) qualifiers for the World Cup has ended with interesting but quite surprising results.
Last Friday’s first-leg knock-out qualifiers was indeed a test case for the ten teams, though the qualifiers is yet to produce aggregate winners for the upcoming football game. For the records, participating teams from Africa are competing to occupy five allotted slots in order to book a place in the international tournament slated for November 21 to December 8, this year.
The Decisive play-off encounter between the Black Stars of Ghana and the Super-Eagles of Nigeria at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi speaks volume about the level of determination each team attaches to the qualifying stage, having had a feel of the WC and the prestige that comes along with the international soccer fiesta.
The euphoric moments and height of expectation that characterized the match came to naught as both teams held the other to a goalless game. The over 30,000 enthusiastic fans that thronged the stadium to witness the titanic encounter returned home with nothing but hopes in despair. I solemnly take the words out of the mouth of Rollo May, who once said “Courage is not the absence of despair, it is rather the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair”.
This goes without gainsaying that even though some Ghanaians including the media and soccer pundits are quite disappointed at the stars in spite of their sterling performance, all hope was not lost as the stars stand a better chance of outwitting their Nigerian counterparts far away in Abuja.
Undoubtedly, the team is considered much more compact than we have witnessed over the years under the able leadership of Coach Otto Addo, a German-born Ghanaian player who featured for the Black Stars in the 2000 AFCON.
Indeed, the performance of the stars in last Friday’s interesting game was an improvement on the appalling performance witnessed at the just ended AFCON in Cameroon.
With the new crop of players moulded with individual skill and resilience on the field of play, it would not be out of place for anyone to label the said squad as the team for the future.
It is the hope of many that with this batch of players, Ghana was not far from claiming a historic slot for Qatar 2022. This will mean defeating the Super Eagles n the return play-off at the end of qualifiers today.
From the football lens, the West African derby between Nigeria and Ghana has always been characterized by tension although Ghana has maintained its dominance over the Super Eagles in recent times.
Again, Ghana has proven that it has a comparative advantage over its arch-rivals Nigeria in terms of standards. The Black Stars has demonstrated its quality and soccer prowess over the Eagles with 25 wins as against 12 wins with 19 games ending in a draw.
The outcome of the first leg match has uplifted the spirit of most Ghanaians and to an extent heighten the expectation of both teams ahead of the second league.
For Ghana, the usual national pride is at stake, and so the ever committed team which was put together barely a month ago will stop at nothing than to bring back the lost confidence in the stars. Victory awaits the senior national team should it lit up its game in the return debut.
Obviously, many are quite satisfied with the result of last Friday’s encounter which ended in a pulsating 0-0 stalemate. The question still remains, what is the measure of optimism among Ghanaian fans?
Your guess is as good as mine because the Abuja game is a must-win for Ghana to claim another WC slot. Ghana made its first FIFA world cup debut in 2006 Germany after a long draught and managed to advance to the second round.
History beckons that Ghana was the sixth African nation in a row to go past the group stages of the WC, which is highly commendable so to speak. The country’s thirst for winning the WC doubled as it managed to reach the quarter-final stage at the 2010 WC in South Africa, the first of its kind to be hosted on an African soil.
Brazil 2014 WC presented itself as a progressive but bitter moment for the Black Stars despite picking just a point from three games in the biggest football fiesta. To this backdrop, much is expected of the stars.
All is set for the second league matches and promises to be more exciting with twists and turns for the top-rated teams including Ghana. Teams that played host to their counterparts are looking forward to getting a win away from home on Tuesday night.
That said, the time has come again for the stars to prove themselves and showcase the class it is noted for by winning against the Super Eagles by hook or crook. Ghana’s top-flight trio who equally features in the English Premier league namely, Thomas Partey of Arsenal, Jordan Ayew of Crystal Palace, and Daniel Amartey of Leicester City are expected to give a good account of themselves based on the quality and experience they possess in the team.
Anything short of that will mean a great disservice and a disappoint for many soccer enthusiasts. With the absence of Ghana’s prolific attackers, Andre Dede Ayew who plays for Qatar Stars League club Al Sadd, the stars. The rest of the players particularly the central defensive pair of Djiku and Amartey should up their game and increase the supply at the midfield to complement the role of Partey and the likes of Gideon Mensah and Baba Iddrisu.
What is important for the stars now is to avoid an early goal from the Super Eagles as they did to Cape Verde in a nervy finish that saw the 3 times African Champions drawing the first blood through in the first minute to earn them a spot for the WC qualification play-off.
The stars need to soak up the pressure on the eagles, hasten their build-up and create chances for goals instead of over-elaboration and holding on to balls. Both teams recorded lots of lapses that need to be worked on.
The Eagles managed to have only two shots at goal making Joseph Wollacott to have a field day at post. This must be maintained. Both Otto Addo and Nigeria’s coach Augustine Eguavoen will be under pressure towards a decisive win to secure qualification in the world’s biggest football game.
Like President Akufo Addo said, “This too shall pass”. This phrase must therefore be actualized to go in favour of the stars as we cheer them on to victory this afternoon.