Monday night on the Cape Coast, a fishing port in Ghana, will be the setting for West Africa’s biggest meeting, in fact, a rivalry – Ghana versus Nigeria – that dates back to the early 1960s.
This time, players from the leagues of both countries will go head to head in a Wafu Cup of Nations group game which could be a winner-takes-all.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles have been disappointing so far in the group stage following back-to-back draws with Mali and Guinea without scoring after seeing off Sierra Leone 2-0 in the playoff.
Despite having a frontline of Anthony Okpotu and Kingsley Eduwo who scored a combine total of 32 goals, 60 per cent of Lobi’s 43 goals in the recently ended Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season. But the two strikers have found the going tough in Ghana where the Wafu Cup of Nations is ongoing.
So they go up against Ghana’s Black Stars who have not only won two out of two games but have kept clean sheets in both matches against Guinea and Mali. Kwadwo Stephen Sarfo, Kwame Kizito and Cobbinah Winful Essuah have accounted for their three goals so far in 2-0 and 1-0 wins over Guinea and Mali.
The Black Stars are already assured of a semifinals place irrespective of what happens on Monday night and that tilts the pressure in the way of their West African rivals Nigeria who need an outright win to ease looking over their shoulders as Guinea and Mali, on one point each, could still qualify for the last four should the Nigerians suffer defeat.
However, both teams are expected to wring changes to their startlists by the time the match gets underway from 6pm GMT.
For the Super Eagles of Nigeria, there could be as many as four changes which could happen mostly in the goalkeeping position as well as in midfield.
Ghana coach Maxwell Konadu could decide to give opportunities to the like of Felix Annan, Patrick Razak, Ahmed Adams, Musa Nuhu and Kelvin Andoh who have either played as substitutes or watched from the bench.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Cobbinah Winful Essuah (Ghana): The Ghana number 10 has been creative in the middle of the park and has featured in two games for the Black Stars at the Wafu Cup. He scored an eye-catching winner for the hosts against Mali as the game was petering out for a goalless outcome.
Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Nigeria): It is expected that Nigeria coach Salisu Yusuf will list the FC Ifeanyiubah stopper from start to finish after he dropped to the bench in the 0-0 draw with Guinea. Ezenwa could yet be the man to help Nigeria reach the last four like he did in Yaounde when his country secured a very important point in Cameroon in a 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifying match.
Amos Frimpong (Ghana): The Asante Kotoko man has been massive in defence for the Black Stars. He has played every minute. But Ghana head coach Maxwell Konadu might just decide to rest him since they have booked passage to the last four.
Osas Okoro (Nigeria): Apart from Akwa United midfielder Afeez Aremu, Okoro is the other player who has played every minute at the Wafu Cup and that underscores how important he is in the scheme of things in Yusuf’s plans. Okoro is versatile – he can play as a wing-back, attacking winger and behind the striker – but has functioned more as a right wing back in Ghana.
© The Predictor