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2022 World Cup playoff Preview: Ghana vs. Nigeria

Sona Balakhchyan
Ghana is facing West African rivals Nigeria in the playoffs, where the Black Stars will have the opportunity to redeem themselves from the disgraceful AFCON campaign in Cameroon last month.

The Black Stars had a worst-ever AFCON outing in history, having suffered a group stage elimination picking only a point from three matches. Ghana ended their AFCON adventure with a 3-2 defeat to the less-fancied Comoros side, debuting in the last group game.

The dismal performance in Cameroon has led to the sacking of Serbian trainer Milovan Rajevac weeks after the tournament. Former Ghana international Otto Addo has been given the nod to execute the World Cup qualification ambition, and English/Irish coach Chris Hughton was named technical advisor.

Black Stars will battle against the Super Eagles without captain Andre Ayew following his straight red card against Comoros after a reckless challenge on goalkeeper Salime Ben Boina. Ajax star Mohammed Kudus’ return to full fitness will be a significant booster for Ghana for this crucial tie. He missed the AFCON through an injury.
Southampton defender Mohammed Salisu is expected in the team for the playoffs, and that would be an additional booster for Addo’s side.

Ghana’s appearances at the World Cup came in 2006, 2010, and 2014. Nigeria is aware of the daunting task before booking a place at the World Cup in Qatar later this year with the playoffs tie against Ghana.

The Super Eagles need the World Cup qualification as compensation for their failure at the AFCON 2021 in neighboring Cameroon. Having won all group stage matches against Egypt, Sudan, and Guinea Bissau, Nigeria was shocked by an uninspiring Tunisian team in 16. Augustine Eguavoen will continue to lead the team to face Ghana despite the disappointing AFCON campaign. Eguavoen replaced German trainer Gernot Rohr a few weeks before the start of the tournament. Former player Emmanuel Amuneke will join him for the Ghana double-header.

The Super Eagles have been boosted by the return of SSC Napoli star Victor Osimhen who missed the AFCON due to an injury. Osimhen scored four goals in 6 games during the group stages of the qualifiers.

Leicester and former England youth player Ademola Lookman have received approval for his nationality switch to Nigeria, and he is available to face Ghana if Eguavoen invites him. Nigeria will also not be having Alex Iwobi for the two matches following his suspension. He was sent off for a dangerous tackle against Tunisia.

The Super Eagles must have at the back of their minds that since 2006, they have not beaten Ghana in any match after four attempts where they lost three times and were drawn once. Ghana will host the first leg of the tie on Thursday, March 24, 2022, at the Cape Coast Stadium, with kick-off slated for 19:00 GMT.

The second leg of the West African derby takes place at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at 16:00 GMT.

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