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Nigeria’s 2022 World Cup hope in dilemma after goalless draw in Kumasi

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Following Nigeria’s scoreless draw with the Black Stars of Ghana on Friday night in Kumasi in the first leg of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup playoff, Nigeria’s Super Eagles will need to beat Ghana in Abuja on Tuesday, March 29th, at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, to cement their place for a seventh FIFA World Cup appearance.

It is the only goalless outing of the five matches played in the framework of the African qualifiers for the global showpiece.

Nigeria and Ghana neutralized each other in a high-tempo, World Cup playoff, first leg encounter inside a tumultuous Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi on Friday.

Read Also: Pinnick says 2022 FIFA World Cup Playoffs a Serious Business

There was a lot of running and cheer-drawing nutmegs, but goalkeepers Francis Uzoho and Joseph Wollacott shared some saves between them in the opening leg of a 180-minute decider for a ticket to the 22nd FIFA World Cup finals.

The iconic Baba Yara Stadium, packed to the rafters, erupted each time the white-clad Black Stars went on the onslaught, but lack of productivity ensured the high-decibel support diminished steadily as time climbed on the scoreboard.

The impressive Mohammed Kudus, Abdul Fatawu, Baba Idrissu and stand-in captain Thomas Partey showed desperation to put Ghana ahead early in the game but met stiff resistance from Leon Balogun, William Ekong and Zaidu Sanusi.

In the 6th minute, Kelechi Iheanacho very nearly caught an adventurous Wollacott off his line from a 25-yard free-kick, before Balogun manfully thwarted an advancing Fatawu as he bore down on goal in the 15th minute.

The Black Stars were luminous in the first quarter-hour in Ghana’s second city, but once Sanusi cleverly stepped past two persons and his pull-out was only a bit too high for Osimhen, it became a somewhat level playing field.

In the 33rd minute, Uzoho underscored his agility when Fatawu, at the end of a counter, unleashed a scorching shot. Four minutes later, Osimhen failed to get enough purchase on his shot. Nigeria’s best chance of the half came in the 41st minute when the ball fell nicely to Joseph Ayodele-Aribo, but he lifted the ball a bit too high. Just before the break, Ekong had to come to the rescue as Kudus set up Alex Djiku.

In the second half, Wollacott had to be alert to save from Simon who got himself into a good shooting position, and at the other end in the 66th, Suleman Abdulmumin flighted the ball too high. Uzoho parried from Kudus and Ghana came close from a corner kick but in the 76th minute, Nigeria thought they had won a penalty after substitute Oghenekaro Etebo’s pass was scooped by Gideon Mensah. But after a VAR cheque, Moroccan referee Rédouane Jiyed annulled his own decision.

Both teams clash in the final 90 minutes of the fixture at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, starting from 6pm on Tuesday. The Nigerian delegation to the match in Kumasi returned to Abuja on Saturday morning.

This means Tuesday’s cracker with Ghana in Abuja is a must-win for Nigeria. Another goalless draw would see the game go to extra time and if there are still no goals after 120 minutes, a penalty shoot-out will decide which of the teams make it to Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup finals will take place in Qatar from 14th November to 18th December 2022.

 

By: Charles Ifeanyi  

Tel: 08029772561

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