A challenging task awaits Ghana’s Black Stars as they battle the Super Eagles of Nigeria in the first of a doubleheader tie in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying playoffs at the Baba Yara Stadium at 7 p.m. today.
It will be a clash of two continental heavyweights whose rivalry on the pitch has often been fierce, irrespective of the level of competition.
Ahead of today’s game, the Skipper of the Black Stars, Thomas Partey, has calmed down nerves of Ghanaians, promising a good performance to atone for their shambolic outing during the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament in Cameroun which saw them exiting at the group stage.
Even more significant for the Black Stars is the opportunity to redeem their image after missing out on the last gathering in Russia and the quest to establish their supremacy over their West African rivals.
Stars in high spirits
Yesterday, the skipper admitted that the team was in high spirits which is refreshing news from the Black Stars camp despite losing Moldova-based Edmund Addo from camp, after complaining of pains in the thigh while training last Thursday.
His absence notwithstanding, Partey said, the team was ready to meet the Nigerians, although they foresaw a tough game. He said he and his teammate were ready for the Super Eagles.
“We know we are meeting a good team, but we are ready and prepared to meet them,” the midfielder said.
He called on the supporters to turn out in their numbers and give the team the necessary support today.
Partey is expected to carry the hopes of the country, leading the Black Stars to this important game following the absence of Skipper Andre Ayew who got a red card during Ghana’s last game against the Comoros in the AFCON.
The responsibilities are enormous for the 27-year-old Arsenal star, who will also be looking forward to his maiden appearance at the Mundial, and Ghanaians are hoping he will replicate his current form at club level with the national team to ensure victory.
Road to playoff
Ghana’s qualification to this stage went into a photo finish having edged out South Africa on superior goal difference after finishing with 13 points apiece playing in Group G against the likes of Ethiopia and Zimbabwe while the Super Eagles had a smooth ride in Group C with 13 points ahead of Cape Verde, 11 points, Liberia six points and Central African Republic four points.
Coach Addo’s first game
This will be stop-gap coach, Otto Addo’s first assignment since taking over from Serbian gaffer, Milovan Rajevac, who was sacked over poor performance at the AFCON last February, and he would be supervising the 60th clash between the two powerhouses of continental football.
Unfortunately, Coach Addo gave out very little clues over the strategy he would use to defeat the Super Eagles but was optimistic Ghana would stretch their 21 victories over the Nigerians against their 10 wins and 18 draws.
Despite the array of stars at the disposal of the Nigerians, including Kelechi Iheanacho, Joseph Ndidi, Moses Simon, among others, Coach Addo, said games between the two sides often defied the form guide and believes it could be anyone’s game. “You can play a good game and still lose or have a bad game and yet win,” he said
The Ghanaian gaffer admitted the team has had a short time to prepare compared to their opponents who have been together for a long time but that notwithstanding, he said the team was ready and prepared to give off their best.
Coach Addo will also be without the services of his suspended skipper Andre Ayew and an injury scare for in-form Daniel Kyereh, but he still could rely on other top stars, including Baba Iddrisu, Mohammed Kudus, Alexander Djiku, Yaw Yeboah, Abdul Fatawu Issahaku, Jordan Ayew, Felix Afana-Gyan and Daniel Amartey to overpower the Super Eagles.