Black Stars must maintain focus on World Cup qualification

The excitement that greeted the Black Stars’ 4-3 home victory over Central African Republic in their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Kumasi last Monday brought fond memories of the team’s success stories of yesteryear.

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Flowing from the Stars’ shocking 2-1 away win over the Eagles of Mali in Bamako last week, soccer-loving Ghanaians responded in equal measure by packing the Baba Yara Stadium to the rafters, reminiscent of the good old days, in anticipation of another Oseikrom celebration. And so it happened, as Coach Otto Addo and his determined squad tamed the Wild Beasts from spoiling the USA-Canada-Mexico 2026 party.

No wonder the entire nation burst into spontaneous jubilation as if the Black Stars had already booked the ticket to their fifth Mundial appearance. While congratulating the Stars on posting those crucial back-to-back wins in four days to top Group I with nine points, we are especially thrilled by the manner in which they were executed from the jaws of defeat.

The fighting spirit and tenacity of purpose displayed by the players were a clear indication of their readiness to tread the path of their predecessors. Therefore, none can begrudge them for receiving all the plaudits for their present accomplishment.

However, we still want to urge the technical handlers, players and Ghanaians in general to err on the side of caution amid the revelling since the journey is far from over. Judging from the way the game has evolved with countries such as Comoros, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Benin, Burkina Faso and Sudan, among others, rubbing shoulders with the known heavyweights in African football in recent times, it is only prudent to cut short the celebrations and concentrate on the last six group matches in the marathon qualifiers.

It goes without saying that the economic benefits of the FIFA World Cup transcend the football ecosystem, hence the need for all Ghanaians to embrace the entire campaign as a national project.

We daresay that the sights and sounds which characterised last Monday’s match captured the mood of the entire populace. We couldn’t agree more with Otto Addo when he pleaded with Ghanaians for time to build a formidable team at the post-match press conference.

Though the players deserve commendation for a job well done, the plain truth is that the team is far from a finished product. That notwithstanding, we are still struggling to come to terms with why almost the same crop of players flopped badly under Coach Chris Hughton at the AFCON 2023 tournament early this year.

Obviously, the only inference we can make in this instance is that the second coming of Otto Addo has, perhaps, provided the Midas touch which was hitherto missing. For now, Otto Addo must certainly be a proud man for succeeding in reviving Ghana’s World Cup hopes this time around just as he did in his first stint by delivering the Qatar 2022 ticket at the expense of rivals Nigeria two years ago.

Based on his exploits so far, we expect him to sharpen the rough edges of his promising team before the next qualifying matches against Chad and Madagascar between March 17 and 25, 2025.

For instance, it was worrying to see the Black Stars fight from behind against both Mali and Central African Republic. Going forward, Ghanaians would want the Stars coach to find an antidote to that weakness as the qualifiers get hotter.

Again, we observed that the team conceded some cheap goals quite uncharacteristic of the Black Stars. We therefore entreat him to strengthen his backline and probably look for better options for his centre back pair of Alexander Djiku and Mohammed Salisu, which looked jerky against Central African Republic.

The poor showing of the Stars defence also exposed goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi as not being reliable, raising concerns about the need for the senior national team handlers to scout for another top shot-stopper who can compete with him for the number one spot. 

Aside from that, we expect Otto Addo to find a clinical striker or two to lead the Stars attack, especially after hat-trick hero, Jordan Ayew, had confessed last Monday that he had been playing out of position for some time now.

If these lapses, among others, can be fixed prior to the remaining matches, we strongly believe the current Black Stars team has the potential to qualify for the USA-Canada-Mexico 2026 FIFA World Cup and complete the joy of Ghanaians.

Keep focused on the goal and go for the kill, Black Stars!

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