Chris Hughton
Chris Hughton

Hughton faces World Cup litmus test

Coach Chris Hughton and his coaching staff will come under pressure to get Ghana's 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign off to a flying start as the Black Stars host Mozambique at the Baba Yara Stadium on Friday and play away to Comoros four days later, with the results likely to determine the future of Hughton and his coaching staff.

Qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup is a top priority of the FA and one of the key targets of the coach, but with uncertainty hanging over his future with the team amidst a poor run of results under his charge, the outcome of the upcoming qualifiers is very crucial, especially as Ghana aims to make a fifth appearance at football's biggest global gathering in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

The Berea of Madagascar may not be considered among the top football powerhouses on the continent but have an impressive record against Ghana and could prove to be a difficult nut to crack for the Black Stars once again.

The two sides played a scoreless draw in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Antananarivo last June, with the Black Stars winning 3-0 in the first-round fixture in Kumasi last year when Coach Hughton was the technical advisor to his predecessor, Otto Addo.

He, therefore, has a decent knowledge of the capabilities of the island nation who will be out to cause an upset at a venue Ghana have not lost in 23 years.

The last time Ghana lost to Madagascar came in an international friendly in South Africa where the Berea ran away 2-1 winners. 

Following concerns about the team's uninspiring performances, particularly recent losses to Mexico and USA in friendly matches, public confidence in Coach Chris Hughton has dipped and the Irish-Ghanaian gaffer knows the weight of expectations he carries.

He told the BBC in an interview last week that he was determined to ensure the team got good results.

"What we would want is to do well in these games, to win these games and to be able to go into AFCON with good momentum. But these [World Cup qualifiers] must come first.

"My role as coach of the Black Stars is to get the best results and the best performances from the team. You can't always get that.

"But you can always learn from your previous experiences, whether it's good or bad. And, ultimately, I will work as hard as I always do to try to get things done in the best way that we can,” he said.

In the absence of injured midfield enforcer Thomas Partey, Coach Hughton will count on the experience of Skipper Andre Ayew, who has just signed for French top-flight side Le Havre, and the genius of midfielders Mohammed Kudus, Jordan Ayew, Ernest Nuamah, as well as forwards Joseph Paintsil, Osman Bukari and Antoine Semenyo, to get Ghana a win on Friday.

The return of the experienced Daniel Amartey should help organise the defence which has been badly exposed in recent matches.

Madagascar Coach, Romuald 'Roro' Rakotondrabe, has also named a strong squad to face the Black Stars with FC Nantes defender, Fortun Titouan Silidy, and FC Sochaux’s Thomas Fortaine among the squad.

Andre Ayew and his teammates will also be mindful of the threat posed by Comoros after they defeated the Black Stars 3-2 and dumped them out of the 2021 AFCON in Cameroun as 'Les Coelacantes' reached the Round of 16 of the continental competition.

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