Story by Kelechi Bernard
Nearly eight years after playing at the Mecca of Nigerian football, the Super Eagles will make a return to the freshly refurbished Moshood Abiola International stadium in Abuja for the reverse fixture of the African zone FIFA World Cup Qualifying Playoff against Ghana’s Black Stars on 27 March 2022.
The Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, confirmed the venue and date of the potentially explosive second leg encounter between two of Africa’s bitterest rivals to the Confederation of African Football, CAF, who also stated that the first leg of the crucial tie has been slated for Thursday 24 March 2022 at the Cape Coast Stadium in Cape Coast
The final leg encounter will be the 59th clash at senior level between both West African giants in a chequered seventy one year rivalry, and will also be the first game involving the Super Eagles at the country’s premium sporting arena since the Eagles defeated Sudan’s Falcons of Jediane 3-1 in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match on 15th October 2014.
Huge expectations rest on the shoulders of players of both nations after Nigeria slumped 0-1 to Tunisia in the round of sixteen hurdle of AFCON 2021 in Cameroon despite notching up a hundred percent record in the group phase, while Ghana finished last in their group with one point following two losses and a draw.
In an effort to fortify Eagles’ coaching crew, the NFF has drafted 1994 African Footballer of the year, Emmanuel Amuneke to assist Technical Adviser Augustine Eguavoen who oversaw the team’s campaign in Cameroon on interim capacity which expires at end of this March.
For Ghana, Radovan Rajovac has walked away from the team after Black Stars’ embarrassing performance at AFCON, while former Brighton manager Chris Houghton, of Ghanian origin, has emerged as a leading candidate to take over the squad following a screening conducted by the FA.
To get to the final stages of the African Zone World Cup Qualifying, Nigeria topped a pool that included Cape Verde, Liberia and the Central African Republic while Ghana emerged from the section that had South Africa, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.
The Ghanaians are hungry for another world cup appearance after missing out on the last edition in 2018 in Russia while the Super Eagles will be aiming for a fourth consecutive showing in the Mondial.
The winner of the double leg playoffs will represent the continent at the World football showpiece which is scheduled to take place from November 21, 2022 to December 18, 2022 in the Gulf region of Qatar.