On Friday, two African powerhouses, Ghana and Nigeria, face off in the opening of their two-legged playoff game at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium, kicking off the race for a berth in Qatar.
After failing to win any of the last four encounters between the two teams since 2006, the Super Eagles will enter the game hoping to gain a victory over their West African opponents and improve their qualification hopes.
GHANA VS NIGERIA MATCH PREVIEW
Ghana had a disappointing performance at the Africa Cup of Nations, where they were eliminated in the group stage after only one point from three games in Group C.
After losing 1-0 to Morocco in their first match, the Black Stars drew 1-1 with Gabon in their second match before losing 3-2 to debutants Comoros in the group finale.
Ghana will now attempt to put their terrible run behind them as they prepare for the World Cup qualifying playoffs, where they have been drawn against West African rivals Nigeria after narrowly securing first place in Group G.
Otto Addo’s men required all three points in their last group game against South Africa on November 14 to advance to the next phase of the qualifications after picking up 10 points in their first five games.
While Ghana will be hoping to start up where they left off in their quest for a place in Qatar, they have failed to get going in recent games, losing three and drawing one in their last four.
In the World Cup qualifiers, Nigeria went undefeated in all but one of their six games, winning four and drawing one to finish first in Group C, two points ahead of second-placed Cape Verde.
The Super Eagles’ first loss occurred in October against the Central African Republic, when Karl Namnganda scored a 90th-minute goal to give the visitors a shock victory.
Nigeria enters Friday’s match fresh off a last-16 departure from the Africa Cup of Nations, when they were defeated 1-0 by Tunisia thanks to Youssef Msakni’s lone goal.
Augustine Eguavoen’s team had gone six games without losing, with one draw and five wins, including three in their three AFCON group-stage games.
While Nigeria will be seeking to get back on track, they will face an opponent who they have failed to beat in each of the last four encounters between the two teams, losing three and drawing one since a 1-0 triumph in 2006.
GHANA VS NIGERIA’S TEAM NEWS
Following the firing of Milovan Rajevac by the Ghana Football Association in January due to their poor performance at the Africa Cup of Nations, Ghana will be headed by interim manager Otto Addo.
Reading defender Andy Yiadom, Arsenal star Thomas Partey, and Bochum forward Christopher Antwi-Adjei are among Addo’s 27-man roster.
Denis Odoi of Club Brugge and Felix Afena-Gyan of Roma have been given debut calls-ups to the team and might make their first professional outings.
Despite returning to the squad with a positive COVID-19 test on Sunday, Crystal Palace forward Jordan Ayew, who is presently ranked 10th on the country’s all-time scoring list, has been included.
Nigeria, meantime, has named a star-studded 25-man squad for their two matches against the Black Stars, including Emmanuel Dennis, William Troost-Ekong, and Kelechi Iheanacho of Leicester City.
Innocent Bonke of Lorient has been called into the team in place of Wilfred Ndidi of Leicester City, who suffered a knee injury in a Europa Conference League match against Rennes on March 17.
Maduka Okoye of Sparta Rotterdam is another noticeable omission from the Super Eagles camp after the 22-year-old recently had a sickness.
Leicester City winger Ademola Lookman has earned a place in the squad after receiving FIFA approval to represent Nigeria back in February. He could make his highly-anticipated debut on Friday.
In the final third, the 24-year-old might pair up with Iheanacho and in-form Napoli player Victor Osimhen to bolster the Super Eagles’ already powerful offensive force.
GHANA VS NIGERIA LINEUP
Wollacott; Mensah, Amartey, Djiku, Yiadom; Partey, Wakaso; Paintsil, Kudus, Antwi-Adjei; Wriedt.
Uzoho; Sanusi, Troost-Ekong, Omeruo, Aina; Onyeka, Aribo; Lookman, Iheanacho, Dennis; Osimhen.
The match will take place at Baba Yara Sports Stadium, with a kickoff time of 20:30 UK time and 8:30 PM Nigeria time.