At last, Ghana, Nigeria clash for Qatar 2022 World Cup ticket
The match is finally here. It is the first leg of the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying tie between Ghana and Nigeria, which has been on the cards since the draws was made on January 22 in Cameroun.
Ghana will host Nigeria in this first leg today in Kumasi, while the decisive leg will hold in Abuja on March 29. The winner of the tie over two legs will join four other African countries on the trip to Qatar later this year.
The Super Eagles arrived in Kumasi, yesterday, for the clash, which, many believe, is one of the most anticipated matches of the first-leg of the 2022 World Cup playoffs.
Apart from deciding which country qualifies for the World Cup, it is also about pride and bragging rights, as well as opportunity to pacify either of the teams’ fans following both countries poor outing at the last Africa Cup of Nations.
While Ghana was booted out of the competition in Cameroun in the first round, Nigeria surprisingly lost to Tunisia in the first knockout stage, prompting both countries to rejig their technical teams.
In Ghana’s case, they sacked Black Stars Coach, Milovan Rajevac brought in homeboy, Borusia Dortmund’s assistant coach, Otto Addo, as head coach and English Premiership top gaffer, Chris Hughton, as the technical adviser.
Nigeria did not sack Coach Augustine Eguavoen, but they fortified the technical crew with the addition of former Barcelona star, Emmanuel Amunike, to the bench.
The playing staff has also seen some adjustments, with both countries bringing fresh stars to add to those that competed in Cameroun.
The Black Stars brought in Ajax Amsterdam star, Mohammed Kudus and Roma FC striker, Felix Afena-Gyan. They also recalled Germany-based Kwesi Wriedt, Fulham defender, Denis Odoi and Hearts of Oak defender, Dennis Korsah.
They will miss suspended captain, Andre Ayew, who got a red card in Cameroun, and injured Rennes’ Kamaldeen Sulemana.
Nigeria recalled top striker, Victor Osimhen, who missed the AFCON through illness, as well as Odion Ighalo and Watford’s Emmanuel Dennis, who were not allowed to play in Cameroun by his club.
Akinkumi Amao and Ademola Lookman are also debuting for the Super Eagles in Kumasi. Who wins the tie would be decided on the pitch over two legs, but the coaches have already started claiming victory before the first ball is kicked.
Ghana Coach, Addo, a former international midfielder, has assured Black Stars’ fans that his side will make them smile. But he acknowledges that victory would not come on a platter of gold.
“We all expect Ghana to qualify for the FIFA World Cup (Qatar 2022) but that won’t be easy as we need to do our best to make it to this tournament.
“Matches between Ghana and Nigeria are always difficult but we believe in our players, we believe in our strategies, and we believe in the unflinching support of all Ghanaians as we go into these two matches.”
Nigeria coach, Eguavoen, who led the country to 1-0 defeat of Ghana in his first stint as his country’s boss in 2006, said:
“It’s a very crucial match, a lot is at stake. The most important thing is to qualify for the World Cup. We have a strong squad and a large pool of players to choose from.
“The boys are sharp and ready to go. We have to win well against Ghana to get over the line. We will do the talking on the pitch.”
Eguavoen, who will be without injured midfielder, Wildfred Ndidi and first choice goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye, insists these players absence will not change the fate of his team.
Nigeria had their last training session in Abuja yesterday morning and also trained at the Baba Yara Stadium, Kumasi by 7.00 p.m.
Head-to-head, Ghana has the advantage with 25 victories out of their 56 previous clashes, with 19 ending in draws. But the Super Eagles are current form side, as they have won three of their past five matches and drawn one with the other ending in a defeat, Ghana have lost three games, drew one and won one.