By Ismael Kiyonga (Kawowo Sports)
It's Ghana vs Uganda; Well, it’s finally here – the opening game of any competition always throws up some interesting tactical battles as there is so much riding on it.
No team wants to lose an opening game in qualifiers and it won’t be any different in Kumasi. Pressure is on Ghana but The Cranes can’t afford to start badly as a poor result may affect their confidence in the forthcoming games.
Expect The Black Stars to come out guns blazing while Micho may opt for a cautious approach but there will come a time when his charges also need to go for it, and with that in mind, Kawowo Sports' Ismael Kiyonga highlights the key battles that will set the final alight.
Fatau Dauda Vs Dennis Onyango:
Both goalkeepers ply their trade in South Africa’s ABSA Premiership with Onyango at Mamelodi Sundowns while Dauda features for Chippa United.
Interesting, both don’t start at the respective clubs but have always performed for the national teams.
Dauda is a good reader of the game with a gallant defense in front of him. A good commander as the last line of defense thus his performance on the day will be crucial for The Black Stars come Saturday.
Similarly, Onyango’s authority as the last line of Uganda Cranes defense gives confidence not only to his back-line but everyone on the team.
He has kept clean sheets against Madagascar and Mauritania in Cranes’ previous games but comes up against a rampant Ghana side who usually score goals for fun when playing at home.
Asamoah Gyan Vs Andrew Mwesigwa
However, as Gyan is best source of goals for The Black Stars, Cranes skipper Andrew Mwesigwa is likely to have a key role in keeping him under wraps.
Apart from his speed, energy and clinical finishing, Gyan's secret is his exceptional and instinctive understanding of space and he is invariably in the right place at the right time.
Mwesigwa failed to stamp authority over two legs against Madagascar in the first round but had an excellent outing against Mauritania keeping them at bay over two legs.
He must double his effort if he is to stop Gyan; Ghana’s leading scorer with 42 goals in 82 caps.
Jonathan Mensah Vs Brian Umony
In Massa and Okwi’s absence, Brian Umony is expected to lead the hunt for goals for Uganda and comes into the game in good form having top scored in the CECAFA Kagame Cup with five goals. Nevertheless, Umony is still looking for his first Cranes goal in qualifiers.
He comes up against Jonathan Mensah; one of Ghana’s best defenders at the moment. Both are powerful and whoever comes out on top may decide the game’s outcome.
Christian Atsu Vs Godfrey Walusimbi
Nicknamed the Ghanaian Messi, Atsu is currently one of the most technically gifted members of the Black Stars squad.
He doesn’t need acres of space to beat his marker and loves to cut inside in search for his strong left foot.
Meanwhile, Walusimbi is arguably The Cranes most consistent performer and has made some of the best wingers look ordinary.
How fares against the Everton man will go a long way in determining the result of the game.
Emmanuel Agyemang Badu Vs Tonny Mawejje
Forwards score goals and defences keep things tight at the back but it’s in the centre of the pack that games are usually won.
Expect a midfield battle between Agyemang and Mawejje at the Baba Yara stadium.
The Ghana midfielder is a hard tackler but a brilliant passer of the ball and comes up against Cranes’ most experienced midfielder in Mawejje.
The Valur star is expected to dictate the tempo of the game with his short and long range passes plus he has recently developed a knack for scoring goals as witnessed against Angola and Liberia in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
It will be interesting when the two come face to face on Saturday.