New Telegraph

Ghana must fall in Kumasi

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The forthcoming Ghana/Nigeria Qatar 2022 World Cup playoff has too many connotations for the two countries and the fans of the game. The bragging rights are enormous for players, citizens and administrators of the round leather game. In the past one week, so many dramatic scenes have been recorded in Ghana and Nigeria over the forthcoming encounter. After the Cape Coast Stadium was rejected by CAF, Ghana presented an unregistered Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi and somehow, the stadium is on the cards for the big first leg encounter slated for March 25.

There was much underground politicking on the venue but it must be emphasized that the Ghanaians were to blame for using the Cape Coast Stadium for the country’s 65th Independence anniversary such that the stadium was unable to pass the fitness test of CAF. The game proper is here and all efforts must be made by the Nigeria Football Federation and the coaching crew of the Eagles to get a win in Kumasi.

The first leg result could prove crucial in this encounter. The over 40,000 capacity Baba Yara Stadium is the biggest football arena in Ghana where the Black Stars have recorded impressive results. No doubt, the Super Eagles have a bunch of talents in their fold, the Black Stars will not be an easy nut to crack in Kumasi.

It is important to state that Austin Eguavoen and the technical crew should work on how to deal with the in-form players in the Ghanaian team. The Eagles also will need so much guts and determination collectively to survive in Kumasi. The technical crew should go for a win in the first leg encounter to reduce the pressure the Eagles will contend with in the decisive tie slated for the National Stadium, Abuja. Arsenal’s Thomas Partey and Alexander Djiku of Strasbourg were named in the Top 11 Africa’s best performing players in Europe’s Major Leagues from March 8-15 this year.

Partey with a goal was impressive in his team’s 2-0 win over Leicester City recently in the English Premier League. Partey was named Arsenal’s player of the month for February due to his five-star performances with four successful tackles and six recovered balls, match record.

In the French Ligue 1, Djiku scored a spectacular goal for Strasbourg in their 1-0 win against AS Monaco. Keeper Richard Ofori of the Orlando Pirates is making a return after injury stopped him from AFCON while Leeroy Owusu of Dutch side, Willem II, Felix Afena- Gyan of AS Roma and former Newcastle forward, Christian Atsu are other key players the Black Stars coach Atto Addo will bank on in this crucial fixture. Nigeria’s key players are Moses Simon and Victor Osimhen. Simon was impressive at the AFCON in Cameroon and Osimhen who missed out due to injury is on fire to impress. The coaches should find a way of having new invitee Ademola Lookman in the attack to boost Osimhen while Kelechi Iheanacho could be the one that will provide the creative element in the team.

The set-up of the midfield and defence is the most dicey for the coaches because the back line needs effective coverage in the middle especially in an away match in which the hosts are expected to swoop on the Nigerian defence. With the addition of highly technical ex-international, Emmanuel Amuneke, as Eagles Chief Coach to complement the efforts of Eguavoen, it is expected that a good strategy with flexibility will be brought into the Nigerian team.

The substitutions to be made in the match are as crucial as the starting line-up. Odion Ighalo, Emmanuel Dennis, Sadiq Umar and Paul Onuachu are players likely to start from bench and they are good enough to still cause havoc for Ghana. Overall, Eagles have a slight edge in this encounter but it is dangerous to underrate the Black Stars especially because of the rivalry between two sides. The Nigeria Football Federation should also tidy up all the logistics relating to this encounter to ginger the players to bring out their A game respectively. The World Cup is big and every player wants to be part of it. One expects Eagles to show the hunger and desire to feature at Qatar 2022 by putting up a solid performance in Kumasi. The defenders should be disciplined and focused to avoid errors that could be costly just as the strikers must play for one another to get the goals. Getting an edge in Kumasi will be the best for Eagles, and with hard work, it is possible.

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