Ghana versus Mozambique
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When the Israeli said “we are leading and we are playing at home so there is no point we should lose” he may have sounded a tad cocky about the team’s chances.
The truth is he has a right to be. In two 2017 qualifiers already this season, the Black Stars have won both. Six maximum points, eight goals scored and one conceeded in two games against Rwanda and Mauritius.
In addition to that, the Nations Cup is a terrain that the Black Stars are very familiar with. Since returning from missing three editions of the tournament in 1992, Ghana has been absent on once. In thirteen editions, the only one the Black Stars did not qualify for was in 2004.
Confidence in the Ghana camp will be boosted further by the knowledge that the visitors to the Accra Sports Stadium have neither a great track record in qualifying or a terrific record in the present campaign. Mozambique’s last appearance at Africa’s showpiece football event was in 1996. Since playing in the second of back to back competitions in 1998, the southern Africa country has missed eight of the last nine competition.
Their last appearance was in 2010 and in the present qualifying they have already their opening two games against Rwanda and Mauritius.
Avram Grant does not however buy into all that. He calls Mozambique a very good side who ‘never stop fighting’ and has warned his side to be weary of them. It is a warning that Emmanuel Agyemang Badu says they will heed.
“If there is any lesson we have learnt, it is that in this game and especially on this continent you cannot underestimate anyone.”
Maybe they are right. Mozambique have installed the former Portugal star Abel Xavier as their coach and the feeling will be that the presence of the once flamboyant defender can trigger a resurgence.
Jonathan Mensah hopes not. In his mind, this is about three vital points that takes the Black Stars a step closer to Nations Cup qualification.
It is also a game that could help Gyan past the half century of goals for Ghana and one that may help Grant get the critics firmly off his back once and for all.
The Israeli has been far from popular recently after his show of disdain for the country by constantly choosing to stay away. He will need a big performance to hush all that disaffection.
And to win he may have to make calls such as replacing his regular goalkeeper Razak Braimah and installing the in form Frank Acheampong in his starting line up.
Grant may have to make a late fitness call on captain Asamoah Gyan who went off in the training session on Wednesday morning.
With Majeed Warris waiting in the wing and Ebenezer Assifuah determined for his breakthrough, that may not represent the biggest loss. Grant’s biggest problem may be getting his players to believe this will actually be a difficult afternoon as he says.
By Michael Oti Adjei|TV3 Sports|Ghana