Go, Black Stars, go

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

That point was re-echoed last Thursday afternoon at the Manhyia Palace by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, who charged the players and technical handlers to win tomorrow's match and go all the way to book a place at the World Cup in Brazil.

After a shaky start to the qualifiers which saw Coach Appiah's men lose away to Zambia, the Ghanaian team have no easy task making a third appearance at football's global gathering, and their campaign has been made even more difficult after the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) declared Zambia winners of their match against the Sudan who fielded an unqualified player in that match.

As a result, the Black Stars find themselves in a situation where they have to win all their remaining qualifying matches, including both games against The Sudan, to stand a chance of making it to Brazil, with the qualification series further complicated by the introduction of an additional playoff at the end of the current group phase.

After two successful appearances at the last two World Cup tournaments in Germany and South Africa, the Black Stars are expected, as a matter of course, to make it to Brazil next year and make another strong case for African football, particularly after the cruel manner in which they were denied a historic semi-final berth three years ago.

 That fact is not lost on newcomer Emmanuel Frimpong, who was overwhelmed by the huge reception the team received in Kumasi and said the Black Stars had a duty to return the compliments with a win tomorrow.

Historically, the Nile Crocodiles have always been difficult customers for Ghana, a fact coach Appiah is well aware of, having been the assistant national coach when the Black Stars beat the North Africans both home and away in 2009 en route to Ghana's qualification to the 2010 World Cup.

It is expected that both the coach and his players have learnt valuable lessons from the Nations Cup fiasco and are fired up to turn on the style in this make-or-break affair. And perhaps they could learn some lessons from their juniors, the Black Satellites, who overcame a poor start to qualify for the semi-finals at the ongoing Africa Youth Championship and automatically book their place at the World Youth Championship later in the year.

With a predominantly home-based team, the Sudanese may not have big-name stars, but they play with confidence, always exhibit solid team play and are difficult to break down, even in away encounters. And with the stakes so high, territorial advantage alone will not guarantee Ghana a win. The Black Stars, therefore, have to raise their game and take their chances when they come, and with the crowd behind them, victory should not elude Kwasi Appiah’s team who are overwhelming favourites for tomorrow's match.