Ghana vs Congo: Black Stars set for WC defining clash tomorrow
For the first time in 12 years, the Black Stars would have to play and hope for luck to enable it to reach its fourth consecutive World Cup (WC) finals. The question of whether Ghana can qualify to Russian 2018 is an onerous one that rests largely on external factors.
Kwesi Appiah’s team goes into the double-legged World Cup qualifier with Congo Brazzaville knowing that they need not just a win, but luck from the game involving Uganda and Egypt, who are Group E leaders, to enhance their chances of qualifying for next year’s tournament in Russia.
Ghana currently lies third with just a point in the four-team group, below Egypt who sits top with six and Uganda’s four, after two matches. The double-header game against Congo is scheduled for this Friday, September 1 at the Kumasi Sports Stadium, whilst the return match also comes off four days later in Congo on 4 September, 2017.
So what are the Black Stars chances?
As already stated earlier, Ghana would have to hope that Uganda can beat or draw with Egypt today in Kampala, or in the second leg slated for 5 September, 2017 in Alexandria, Egypt to at least open up the group and increase Ghana’s chances of qualifying. What this means is that, if Egypt can beat Uganda in the two upcoming fixtures, the Black Stars will automatically lose out on a fourth consecutive appearance since 2006
Meanwhile, Kwesi Appiah’s team would have to be more than perfect by not dropping a point in the remainder of their fixtures, particularly the one away to Uganda in October this year, in order to resurrect any hope of making it to Russia.
On Friday’s game itself, coach Appiah, who took over the team last April from Avram Grant, will be eager for his team to record their first victory in the qualifications.
The team showed a lot of grip and ruthlessness against Ethiopia in their 2019 AFCON qualifier in June, which was Appiah’s first game in charge, since his return to the national team. Supporters will therefore be hoping for even a better performance than the one against Ethiopia, given the magnitude of weight and importance the country attaches to participating in the world’s biggest sports event.
Since 1965, the two countries have clashed 12 times in international friendlies and continental competitions, including the African Nations Championship.
Ghana holds a clear advantage with 10 wins, a draw and a lost from their previous encounters. The last time the two countries played each other was in September 2015 in a friendly match, which the Black Stars won 3:2 through Richmond Boakye and Jordan Ayew goals, as well as an own goal from a Congo player.
Nicknamed the Red Devils or Diable Rouges in French, the Congolese could pull a surprise on Friday in Kumasi, since that they are not under pressure to win or qualify out of Group E.
The strength of the Red Devils is in their unity as majority of the squad are locally based; a scenario which gives them synergy and cohesion going into the match with the Black Stars. Also, the Congolese have had a stable team for some time now, unlike their Ghanaian counterparts who have seldom managed to have a consistent team setup.
On paper, Ghana looks clear favourites and it would come as a huge upset should the Congolese be able to even a get draw on Friday.
Unfortunately, a win for Ghana regardless of the goal margin, might not be enough and supporters, as well as the players may not be able to celebrate it, depending on the outcome of other group game involving Uganda and Egypt today.
Below is the full list of players invited by the Head Coach:
Goalkeepers: Richard Ofori (Martizburg, South Africa), Lawrence Ati (Sochaux, France), Joseph Addo (Aduana)
Defenders: Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew, USA), Agbenyenu Lumor (Portimonese, Portugal), Jeffery Schlupp (Crystal Palace, England), John Boye (Sivasspor, Turkey), Daniel Amartey (Leicester, England), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew, USA), Nicholas Opoku (Club Africain, Tunisia), Joseph Attamah (Bakaksehir, Turkey)
Midfielders: Thomas Partey (Atletico Madrid, Spain), Andre Ayew (West Ham, England),
Kwadwo Poku (Miami FC, USA), Christian Atsu (Newcastle United, England), Edwin Gyasi (Aalesund, Norway), Gideon Waja (WAFA), Alfred Duncan (Sassuolo, Italy), Afriyie Acquah (Torino, Italy), Ebenezer Ofori (Stuttgart, Germany), Thomas Agyepong (NAC Breda, Netherlands)
Strikers: Asamoah Gyan (Kayserispor, Turkey), Jordan Ayew (Swansea, England)
Raphael Dwamena (FC Zurich, Switzerland)
The game kicks off at 3:30pm tomorrow, at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi.