Match Preview: Ghana Vs Nigeria

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The Super Eagles of Nigeria will battle arch-rivals Ghana for a place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in one of the most anticipated first leg playoff fixtures at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi, by 8:30 pm (Nigerian time) on Friday.

As the two-legged clash will decide which side books a ticket to the global tournament in Qatar, the tension associated with the matches between the West African heavyweights has never been higher, as both pride and bragging rights will be at stake.

With Nigeria and Ghana’s unimpressive outing at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, the two countries will be keen on winning back the support of their fans by qualifying for Qatar to banish the disappointment of last month’s tournament in Cameroon.

Preview

Nigeria were eliminated by Tunisia in the round of 16 despite an impressive start to the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament. The 1994 continental champions had won all three group games –  the only team to do so – but in an turn-of-events, fell to the Carthage Eagles.

However, the Super Eagles have been boosted by the return of strikers Victor Osimhen of Napoli and Saudi Arabia-based Odion Ighalo, as both players missed the AFCON. Former England youth striker Ademola Lookman switched allegiance in time for the game to boost the attacking line up that also includes Kelechi Iheanacho.

Midfielder Wildfred Ndidi and goalkeeper Maduka Okoye have been ruled out of the match because of various health reasons.

Nigeria also boosted their backroom staff with former international winger Emmanuel Amunike, to help coach Augustine Eguavoen prepare for the tough encounter. However, Eguavoen admits it would be a difficult match but insists Nigeria has got the player to help them defeat their opponents.

Super Eagles coach, Augustine Eguavoen.

“It’s a very crucial match, a lot is at stake,”  former Super Eagles defender Augustine Eguavoen, who is now the coach of the side, said ahead of the first-leg game in Kumasi.

“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 added.

Nigeria have qualified six times for the World Cup, just one shy of Cameroon, the only African team that have participated the most in the competition.

The Super Eagles will be looking to earn a seventh FIFA World Cup finals appearance when they trade tackles with the Black Stars of Ghana at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi.

The Black Stars of Ghana

Ghana on the other hand, had it’s worst ever outing at the AFCON as they were only able to secure just one point at the group stage. A 3-2 defeat against Comoros then followed to cap off a poor performance at the tournament.

Ghana have boosted their squad as several players who missed the tournament in Cameroon for various reasons are present for the game against Nigeria. Ajax Amsterdam playmaker Mohammed Kudus and Germany-based Kwesi Wriedt return for the Black Stars.

AS Roma youngster Felix Afena-Gyan, Fulham defender Denis Odoi and Hearts of Oak ace Dennis Korsah have been handed their debut call-ups. But the Black Stars will miss captain Andre Ayew who is suspended, while Rennes talented winger Kamaldeen Sulemana is absent from the squad because of injury.

In the wake of the AFCON crash, Ghana overhauled their technical staff by sacking Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac, who was blamed for the team’s unimpressive showing in Cameroon. Ghana appointed former international player Otto Addo. Former Newcastle manager Chris Hughton, will work as the technical advisor for the two matches.

In the absence of the substantive captain the Black Stars will turn to Arsenal superstar Thomas Partey for inspiration as they seek an emphatic home victory over their arch-rivals. Coach Addo believes the Black Stars can defeat the Super Eagles.

Ghana coach Otto Addo.

“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,” the former Ghana international winger Addo said.

“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.”

Ghana have played three times at the World Cup, but missed out on the 2018 edition in Russia.

Head To Head

Ghana has the head-to-head advantage over the Super Eagles, having won 25 of their 56 previous clashes with 19 ending in draws.  However, the Super Eagles will be counting on their current form to give them the leverage over the Black Stars.

Nigeria have won three of their past five matches and drawn one with the other ending in a defeat, while their opponent on Friday lost three games, drew one and won one. The match will most likely be won by the most determined team on Friday night as matches between the two West African giants know no form guide.

The first leg of the fixture between Ghana and Nigeria will take place by 8:30 pm (WAT) at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi on Friday. Four days later, on Tuesday, the second leg will hold at the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria. This will kick off by 07:00 pm (WAT/Nigerian time).

 

Chidi Nwoke/CAF.

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