Ghana, Nigeria set Kumasi on fire

Gary Al-Smith (@garyalsmith on Twitter) has just got accreditation for the qualifier and reports on the buzz in Ghana ahead of the crunch game

The journalists lining up for press passes kept talking about how Ghana could possibly upend the 3-1 loss suffered in Nigeria weeks ago.

Many believed it would be almost impossible. But even the few who maintained a hope that Ghana could stage an upset acknowledged the power of Nigeria's team, as opposed to the Meteors' seeming reliance on individual brilliance.

The first leg saw the Meteors play two distinct halves: the first was calm and assured; the second, disjointed and tactically all over the place.

Sunday's game would be played in Kumasi, Ghana's second city, and not Accra, for a simple reason: Kumasi is the historical refuge of the national teams in times of trouble.

Accra is seen as too cosmopolitan and impatient, with fans known for booing teams when things get a bit rough. Will the legend of Kumasi's passionate fans work against Nigeria?


The buildup to this All Africa Games second leg qualifier has been immense. Apart from a major political event this weekend, this match is trumping all others, even the preview of the highly anticipated final of the Ghana FA Cup between giants Asante Kotoko and second-division side FC Narnia (owned by Abedi Pele).

Radio stations sports segments have been dominated by previews from all angles: examining weaknesses, doing post-mortems of the first legs and analyzing both sides as team news come in.

Forget the inevitable rivalry between the two nations. This match means similar and different things for both nations.

Officials would be from Ivory Coast: Denis Dembele (centre ref), assisted by Mamadou Bogbe and Marius Tan. The fourth official will be Bojang Jameh from Gambia.

Pressure for both nations?
For Nigeria, the recent spate of resurgence sweeping across the male national teams needs to be continued. The hiring of Samson Siasia to boss the Super Eagles brought a countrywide wave of optimism that infected the other junior teams. The Nigeria Football Federation desperately needs legitimacy for its decision-making and this Olympic are key to the dream.

Ekigho Ehiosun (In pic above) and other 19 named players coming to Ghana would face a nation desperate for continuity of its own. After the senior team dazzled in South Africa, there was a feeling that the good performances would trickle to the lower teams. Disastrously, the very opposite has happened. All the junior teams have crashed out of their various qualifiers and there's growing frustration that the future is bleak.

Which is why the 3-1 defeat in Edo State was taken so seriously here - not forgetting the much-hyped band of players that lost the game. Player for player, Ghana were supposed to give Nigeria stiff opposition in the first leg of this game, seeing as many of the starting eleven had major international tournament experience.

Ghana news

Samuel Inkoom will take a pay cut from his Ukrainian club, Dnipro, who say that will be his punishment for opting for the Olympic team rather than being present for pre-season preparations.

Ghana would also have Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, a member of the team that went to South Africa. And the coach, Kwasi Appiah?

“The word pressure has never been part of me in my career. I always believe when you go into the game without pressure you can deliver your best and win. There is no need to play under pressure.”

Whatever he says, Appiah needs to get his tactics right from kickoff to full time. Bringing Jordan Ayew on late in the second half was clearly an error. Finding a solution to partnering Dominic Adiyiah with an able helper must occupy his thoughts as well. This is not the Nigeria of a few years ago. This is a unit that thrives on teamwork, as amply demonstrated in the second half of the first leg. Eguavoen's stock rose further with the swift changes he made after recess, which killed Ghana's flow.

If I know nothing at all, I have to agree with my colleagues who think this would be a wild one in Kumasi.

Gary Al-Smith is a freelance African football journalist for KickOff Magazine, ESPNSoccernet, ITV and others
Share on Google Plus

About xxx

This is a short description in the author block about the author. You edit it by entering text in the "Biographical Info" field in the user admin panel.


Post a Comment