THE DESPAIR that followed Ghana’s collapse against Ivory Coast in the Group Stage, now seems all but a distant memory as the Black Stars prepare to square-off against rivals Nigeria, for a place in the ANC (African Nations Cup) final.
The Ghana ‘kids’ have matured every second of every match and will go into Thursday’s game knowing they can secure a result against the Super Eagles. Striker Asamoah Gyan displayed the confidence that is running through the Ghana camp when he discussed the match-up recently, stating: “It’s a big game, we all know what is at stake. We are ready and prepared for them [Nigeria] and need to stick to the game plan. We defeated them before, and we will do it again.”
KEY PLAYER: Asamoah Gyan will have to continue his run of goals if Ghana are to be in Sunday’s final.
They say there are no easy games in football and opponents Nigeria are an example of the resonance of truth behind this saying. The Super Eagles are two-time ANC champions (null & 1994) and boast a selection of European talents in their squad.
Despite failing to score in the Quarter-Finals against lowly Zambia, Nigeria have had no trouble hitting the back of the net during this tournament, something that Ghana will be aware of. Their stand out striker so far has been Peter Odemwingie. The Russian-born player has notched up two goals and created a host of excellent chances for his team. Lee Addy will be charged with marking the quick-footed forward, a task that will give him the opportunity to stake his claim for a World Cup spot.
TALENTED FRONTMAN: Peter Odemwingie lines up a goal against Mozambique earlier in the tournament.
The Nigerian front line will likely feature either Yakubu or Obafemi Martins, two established goal scorers. Driving the Super Eagles midfield forward will be Fulham’s Dickson Etuhu, whilst guarding the back four will be Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel. Subsequently, the midfield battle will be compact and centralised, limiting Ghanaian wing play. André Ayew will have to be inventive and quick to find space in midfield and on the flanks.
Defensively, Nigeria are similar to Ghana. The Super Eagles leaked three goals in their first game but have not conceded since. Despite this, Nigeria have looked indecisive at the back and weak against set pieces. The pace of Gyan (who has been declared fit for the match) and Matthew Amoah should put Nigeria under pressure, and if Ayew and Opoku Agyemang can find space for their lightning acceleration on the wing, it’s a safe bet that we will see goals at the Nigerian end.
“ARE YOU WATCHING DAD!”: André Ayew will hope to be on the scoresheet again against a solid but sluggish Nigerian defence.
This fierce West African rivalry has been spiced up by the tantalising prize for the victor. Ghana and Nigeria will both play with an attacking mindset; however the Black Stars will have to be more focused defensively than they were against Angola. Up front, the clinical finishing of Gyan will be essential once more but Matthew Amoah’s large frame may be more important against a tall, strong Nigerian back four. One goal will decide this match, and the ambitious wonderkids of Ghana have enough quality to score it.
Prediction: Ghana 1-0 Nigeria (Amoah)