On Friday, March 25, three-time African champions, the Super Eagles of Nigeria will face arch-rivals, the Blacks Stars of Ghana, in a must-win first leg of the 2022 FIFA World Cup playoff.
Considering the existing football rivalry between the two West African countries which began as far back as 1950, nobody needs a seer to know that the encounter isn’t going to be a tea party for either side.
In all, Ghana and Nigeria have faced each other 56 times with the Black Stars having the upper hand after hauling 25 victories against Nigeria’s 12 victories with 19 of the matches ending in a draw.
On October 16, 1950, this rivalry began in a friendly match in Gold Coast as Ghana was called. Ghana managed to record a slim 1-0 win in that match. But on October 20, 1951, Nigeria took back her pound of flesh in a 5-0 demolition of Ghana in Lagos. Those two matches set the tune for subsequent epic clashes between the two countries.
Their last match was a friendly in England but there was nothing to separate the two African heavyweights. It, therefore, promises to be another football ‘war’ on Friday as Ghana who last appeared at the World Cup in 2014 are doing everything possible to pick Qatar 2022 ticket ahead of their arch-rivals.
Match Venue and the Mind Game
Already, the Ghanaians are playing serious mind games with Nigeria. One of such was the unnecessary fuss over the match venue. They first proposed the bumpy Cape Coast pitch just to upset the Super Eagles. Later on, they settled for Baba Yara stadium in Kumasi as the venue for the crucial match.
Having successfully moved the tie to Kumasi, the Ghanaians are doing everything possible to make the Super Eagles and their fans believe that the Black Stars are invincible at the Baba Yara stadium. They say the Black Stars have never been dimmed at their fortress. And there are also talks about juju just to scare the Nigerian Eagles.
Injuries and Team News
Regarding Injuries and Squad announcements, the Black Stars of Ghana have tried to create a false impression that their team is not in the best shape to face the Super Eagles. For several weeks, handlers of the Ghanaian team played hide and seek with the list of invited players for the match. With deliberate plans to deceive and make Nigeria complacent with the hope to catch them napping.
These mind games the Super Eagles have decoded without delay, as they look forward to the clash in Kumasi.
On Nigeria’s part, there may be reasons to worry ahead of the tie with Ghana following injuries to midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and defender Kenneth Omeruo. Ndidi was taken off the pitch in his side’s loss to Rennes in a Europa Conference League tie on Thursday.
Of which Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers in a post-game interview said the injury was disappointing but it is unclear when he would recover. If he makes the squad, Kenneth Omeruo who has not played for Leganes in the last four league games following a groin injury may have a little fitness concern. The 28-year-old was a mainstay in the heart of Nigeria’s defense at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations earlier in the year. Nigeria will have to play the waiting game to know if the duo will be fit for the double-legged tie.
The rather dubious victory of the Ghanaian Black Stars against the Bafana Bafana of South Africa was one that raise eyebrows and had officials head on the chopping block. A rather dubious penalty was awarded to Ghana for what can be safely called a non-existent foul on Leicester City’s Daniel Amartey. This encounter increased the clamor for football’s latest technology in Africa. Yielding to this call, the CAF alongside football’s world governing body FIFA has contracted the best companies in the world to deploy the technology in Cape Coast and Abuja where the two matches will be played between the two top sides.
It will be the first time in the history of both stadiums in Cape Coast and Abuja that the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) would be deployed as a measure to avoid any controversies.
Indeed all the matches to be played in the final round of matches for Africa in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers will see the implementation of the VAR after CAF's successful use of VAR in 2022 AFCON, CAF Champions League, CAF Confederation Cup, and the CAF Women's Champions League.
We predict a 1-2 victory for the Super Eagles of Nigeria. This is due to the fact the build-up to this game as seen the Ghanaian FA display nothing short of their disorganized football structure.
From the ongoing tussle about who leads the team between the Ghana Football Federation and the Government of the country, to not announcing the squad list with just 3 days to the clash. And as it stands, their squad list for the game against Nigeria is still yet to be announced.