The two West African giants trade tackles in Abuja on Tuesday for a chance to pick up one of the continent’s five tickets to Qatar 2022
Nigeria host Ghana at the MKO Abiola Stadium in the second leg of their qualifying playoff to determine who guarantees a spot at this year’s 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The two former Afcon kings met in the first leg at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi on Friday and managed a thrilling goalless draw.
Ghana dominated much of the proceedings and looked to hurt their visitors with fast, tricky attackers backed by the immovable Thomas Partey. Nigeria grew into the game and could have nicked a late win through a penalty, but VAR upturned the referee’s initial decision.
There is all to play for in the return leg, with any team that wins progressing to the Mundial.
Following Friday’s draw, Nigeria have now avoided defeat in all but one of their last 43 World Cup qualifying matches. That singular defeat, however, came last year when a Gernot Rohr-led Eagles fell to a shock 1-0 home loss to the Central African Republic.
That disappointing loss to the CAR highlights the Eagles’ poor run on home soil, where they have claimed just two wins from their last five games since 2020.
The Black Stars have not fared much better, failing to win their last five matches, including losses to Morocco and Comoros at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
The Ghanaians do not have an intimidating away record during World Cup qualifiers, winning only in Congo and Zimbabwe in their last eight away games.
An upset win for the Black Stars could see Ghana return to the World Cup after missing the 2018 edition.
Nigeria’s stalemate against Ghana in Kumasi was the 19th in 50 clashes between the two, with the Black Stars edging the head-to-head with 21 wins.
The Super Eagles have only managed just ten wins over Ghana, and they secured a 3-0 victory in Port Harcourt the last time they hosted their eternal rivals in a World Cup qualifier in 2001.
Lorient star Innocent Bonke and Samuel Chukwueze went off injured in Kumasi, but both should recover well enough for this meeting.
Still, it would be a surprise to see the two in the starting eleven after an underwhelming performance in the first leg. Head coach Augustine Eguavoen has Oghenekaro Etebo and Frank Onyeka to bolster his midfield options, while Emmanuel Dennis and Ademola Lookman are excellent alternatives to Chukwueze.
Kelechi Iheanacho was decent in the hole behind Victor Osimhen on Friday, but the Eagles need more than decent to soar past Ghana on Tuesday. In place of the Leicester City forward, Eguavoen could deploy either Odion Ighalo or Umar Sadiq to devastating effect against Otto Addo’s men.
Nigeria’s possible starting lineup:
Uzoho; Aina, Troost-Ekong, Balogun, Sanusi; Etebo, Aribo, Lookman, Simon; Osimhen, Ighalo
Ghana’s possible starting lineup:
Wollacott; Mensah, Amartey, Djiku, Odoi; Partey, Baba, Kudus; J Ayew, Afena-Gyan, A Ayew
The Super Eagles have not won any of their last five matches against the Black Stars but are the favourites to claim a narrow victory in a tough battle against their neighbours.
Tip: Nigeria 2:1 Ghana