The local Black Stars will be chasing a fourth straight African Nations Championship (CHAN) finals qualification this afternoon when they lock horns with the Elephants of Côte d’Ivoire in the second leg, final round CHAN 2016 qualifier at the Stade Robert Champroux in Abidjan.
The game, which was initially scheduled for last weekend, had to be re-fixed due to the general elections in La Côte d’Ivoire.
Ghana carries a 2-1 advantage from the first leg, which was played at the Kumasi Baba Yara Stadium a fortnight ago. The team, which flew out of town on Wednesday to the Ivorian capital of Abidjan ahead of the Zone West B clash, are in buoyant mood, having had ample time to train at the artificial turf in Sogakope due to the fact that today’s game would be honoured on a similar terrain.
Matches between the two powerhouses in African football have not come easy for both countries at all levels and today’s game would be no exception. On paper, the Stars have a rich history in the CHAN tournament that put them miles ahead of their opponents, but with the circumstances that saw the Stars winning the first leg, the result today would depend more on quality on the day than history.
Yes, the Elephants are yet to create an impact in the finals, making two first-round exits at the tournament before failing to qualify for the 2014 edition in South Africa. However, the game provides them the opportunity to re-write the wrongs of the past and for coach of the side, Michel Dussuyer, qualification is theirs for the taking.
The artificial turf on which the game would be played should be one huge factor that will determine the winner of this game. Although the Stars spent almost a week at the WAFA facility in Sogakope, the Ivorians are more accustomed to the turf, especially as most of the playing surfaces in that country are artificial.
Coach Maxwell Konadu believes their time in Sogakope would prove beneficial today. In sensational Joel Fameyeh, the Stars have a predator who, on any day, can cause mayhem and this coach Dussuyer is wary of and has promised to map out a strategy to keep him at bay as he believes the Asokwa Deportivo player is the key to Ghana’s game.
The Elephants also have dangerman Sangare Ibrahim who, on a good day, can unlock any well-knit defence line. A drawn game would be enough to see the Stars making it to their fourth straight CHAN finals after placing second at the maiden edition in 2009 and the last edition in South Africa.
The winner will pick the remaining slots out of the three Zone West B slots available which has Nigeria and Niger picking the other two slots for the tournament to be staged in Rwanda between January 16 and February 7, next year.
By Raymond Ackumey