There is palpable fear across board, the smiles on the faces of football stakeholders is gradually disappearing, leaving behind, fear, tension and gloom caused by the uncertainties ahead.
On March 25th, 2022, the fate of a nation will be decided over two legs as the
Super Eagles travel to Cape Coast for the first leg of a crucial world cup qualifier with the Black stars of Ghana and return home to Abuja three.days later to finish up the work they started.
The NFF and Sports Ministry started on a good footing two weeks ago, with the trip to London to emphasize the importance of this match to the players and seek their cooperation in making the world cup dream a reality.
Before that trip, came the good news from Zurich, Switzerland, that world football governing body FIFA has cleared Liecester City forward and former England youth international, Ademola Lookman to play for the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
Just when it seems Nigeria is one step ahead of Ghana in the buildup to this all important match, came news from Accra that the Ghana football Association has appointed former Borussia Dortmund defender Otto Addo as their new coach, with Englishman Chris Hughton to serve as technical advisor when they play against Nigeria in a two legged World Cup playoffs billed for the 25th and 28th of March.
The Ghanainans know that they are the underdogs going into this encounter and have decided to hide under that tag to cause some havoc. The coaches have started combing Europe for fresh talents and one man that has agreed to join is Southampton of England no nonsense defender Mohammed Salisu who has informed family members back home that he will be available for the crunch tie with Nigeria
Former International, Charles Akonnor, has been trying to lure other Europe-based players with Ghanaian heritage to play for the Black Stars.
Akonnor recently told the media in Ghana that he has been speaking with some of the players, adding: “Those I spoke to want to play [for Ghana] but they are also not familiar with our lifestyle here. They don’t know what is going on, some probably just come here [briefly] and go back.
“They don’t know anything about us and I think it is important for us to encourage them to come here and see what is going on here. They are willing to come but they don’t know what it is [like here].”
“Talking of quality players, I think I made mention of six or five players which I believe are quality [players]. They’ll enhance the way we play, the way we go forward. These names are with the FA and the FA has already started working on it.”
Just a few days ago, Black Stars’ 2010 World Cup midfielder, Kevin Boateng, revealed that the Ghana Football Association (GFA) has been trying to convince some foreign players to switch nationalities and play for Ghana.
Those mentioned are Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi who has since turned down the offer, Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey and Brian Brobbey of Ajax Amsterdam are a few players that the Ghana FA is currently courting.
Boateng believes the Black Stars must be made attractive to get quality overseas-born stars to pledge allegiance to the team.
“You have to make the team attractive for the players to want to play for Ghana. Ghana is one of the biggest countries in football and they have produced some of the world’s best players and I can’t put my thoughts together on why they lost to Comoros,” the Hertha Berlin forward said on Twitter Spaces.
“You have to make the players willing to come and play for their country and that comes with being successful and you can do that by winning games. You have to let them know that you have the big stage because every player wants a bigger platform.”
Among the players that have already agreed to play for Ghana is Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu, whose uncle, Yakubu Ahmed, revealed that he would be ready for the Ghana versus Nigeria play-off.
Ahmed revealed that Salisu has informed the family of his decision to finally play for the national team.
“He will be playing for Ghana soon. He has assured us that he will play in the World Cup qualifiers,” reports Ghanaweb.
Now here lies the big problem for Nigeria. Apart from the midfield and attack, the Super Eagles have lots to worry about in the defense and goalkeeping departments.
*On current form, Wilfred Ndidi seem to be struggling in the Liecester City midfield. Frank Onyeka hardly plays for Brentford, Alex Iwobi is in and out of the Everton team, Kelechi Nwakali has been suspended by Huesca and the only inform player presently in that position is Joseph Aribo of Rangers in Scotland*
*In the defense, Leon Balogun has returned from injury and is gradually making his way back to the Rangers defense line, team captain, Troost Ekong has not kicked a ball for Watford ever since he returned from AFCON, Kenneth Omeruo is struggling for his life at second division side Leganes in Spain, while the likes of Tyronne Ebuuehi and Shehu Abdullahi are makeshift additions that will not bring value*.
*The only defenders in top form presently are Ola Aina of Torino FC in Italy and Zaidu Sanusi of FC Porto*.
*The goalkeeping department is where the problem truly lies. Maduka Okoye has been consistent with Dutch Eredevise side Sparta Rotterdam but his form still leaves much to be desired. South Africa based Daniel Akpeyi is aging and has refused to push for a starting spot despite his consistency with Kaizer Chiefs in the South African Premier league*.
*Then there is Francis Uzoho who plays.for AC Omonia of Cyprus. Is that really what we need? The answer is a fat No! And with it comes the urgent need for additions*.
*Hapoel Jerusalem of Isreal number one choice Adebayo Adeleye is in superb form presently and must be considered as one of the goalkeepers for sanity to prevail*.
*In defensive midfield, the coaches must look at former Under 23 national team captain Azubuike Okechukwu who won the Turkish Super Lig title with his team Istanbul Basaksehir two seasons ago. Then there is Akinkunmi Amoo who just joined Dannish top side FC Copenhagen. He should be in line for the attacking midfield position*.
With these additions, Nigeria stands a good chance to beat Ghana over two legs for the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification ticket