The fierce rivalry between West African heavyweights Ghana and Nigeria will be renewed on the evening of Friday 25 March when they meet in Third Round CAF 2022 World Cup qualifying tie, set for the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi. Kick-off is at 21:30 CAT.
The aggregate winner over two legs (the return game is set for the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja on Tuesday 29 March) will earn one of five African tickets to the Qatar World Cup in November and December later this year.
Ghana only just squeezed through to this final phase of qualification: they topped Group G ahead of South, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, but only edged Bafana Bafana on goals scored, as the teams finished level on points, head-to-head results and goal difference.
The Black Stars have since endured a torrid Africa Cup of Nations campaign, exiting the recent tournament in Cameroon after failing to win any of their group stage matches – including an embarrassing 2-3 reverse at the hands of Comoros.
This has seen the Ghana FA axe Milovan Rajevac and install Otto Addo as a caretaker, with the former Black Stars player looking to lead the national team back to the global showpiece, after missing out on qualification for the 2018 finals in Russia, for a fourth appearance (adding to 2006, 2010 and 2014).
“We really want to make ourselves and the nation proud by qualifying for this upcoming World Cup,” said Addo.
“Matches between Ghana and Nigeria are always difficult but we believe in our players, we believe in our strategies and we believe in the unflinching support of all Ghanaians as we go into these two matches.”
Nigeria, meanwhile, were emphatic winners of Group C earlier in the qualifiers, ending top of a pool which also included Cape Verde, Liberia and the Central African Republic. They had one major blip along the way, losing at home to the CAR in Lagos midway through the campaign, but quickly recovered to end two points clear at the head of the table.
The Super Eagles then put in a mixed showing at the AFCON in Cameroon, impressively topping a tough group with wins over Egypt, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau, but just as they were installed as one of the tournament favourites, they were beaten 1-0 by Tunisia to exit at the round of 16.
Nonetheless, Nigeria showed such promise in the Nations Cup that the Nigerian Football Federation opted to scrap plans to bring in Jose Peseiro as head coach and instead continued with Augustine Eguavoen.
The 56-year-old tactician is looking to lead Nigeria to a fourth successive finals appearance, and a sixth from the last seven editions of the World Cup (1994, 1998, 2002, 2010, 2014 and 2018).
“There is no doubt in my mind. I am a Nigerian, a full-blooded Nigerian, and if you asked me such a question, I think, without missing words, we deserve a place at the World Cup,” said Eguavoen.
“It’s going to be a very tough game and a tight one as well. We have a lot of mutual respect for one another, and when Ghana plays Nigeria and Nigeria plays Ghana, it’s always tough, it’s always tight. But you see, it’s going to boil down to us trying to go there. We will play everything we can to try to win the game, in fact, both games.”
In head-to-head stats, Ghana and Nigeria have met in 56 matches across all competitions dating back as far as 1950. The Black Stars have 25 wins compared to 12 for the Super Eagles, while 19 games have been drawn.
Ghana have a record of 16 wins, six draws and just one defeat from 23 home matches against Nigeria.
The teams last met in October 2011 in an international friendly in Watford, England that ended in a goalless draw. Their last competitive meeting was in the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola, with Ghana claiming a 1-0 win in the semifinals thanks to a goal from Asamoah Gyan.