The rivalry between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Black Stars of Ghana returns with an interesting twist; the team who wins in the playoff advances to the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Nigeria would take on their West African rivals Black Stars of Ghana for the first leg of their World Cup qualifying playoff on March 25. The in-pitch battle for supremacy will kick off by 8:30 pm Nigerian time at the 20,000 capacity Cape Coast Stadium.
In what is expected to be a tense football match, here are five talking points as Ghana-Nigeria brawl.
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All eyes on Ademola Lookman
Ahead of the clash, 24-year-old Ademola Lookman has been invited to join the squad after receiving a clearance from FIFA to represent the Nigerian National Football Team. Lookman is a Leicester City winger who is on loan from RB Leipzig. Ademola will be joining the team for the first time when they face the Black Stars of Ghana.
Mask-wearing Victor Osimhen
Also joining the team is Napoli goal-scoring talisman Victor Osimhem. The lanky striker has 13 goals in all competitions for the Italian side. In 2015, Osimhen won the Golden Boot and Silver Ball awards at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile, where Nigeria won the tournament.
Osimhen missed the 2021 AFCON when his club, Napoli, announced that the 23-year-old had contracted the COVID-19 virus.
The return of Odion Ighalo
2019 African Cup of Nations’ highest goal scorer Odion Ighalo has been invited after two years. The big striker is expected to use his experience and skills to give the Super Eagles the edge.
The former Manchester United striker missed the AFCON 2021 after his former Saudi Arabian club Al-Shabab refused to release him for the tournament. His presence is expected to boost the team’s morale and increase the Eagles’ chances of qualifying for the world cup.
Ighalo is the highest goalscorer in the Saudi Professional League for the 2021-2022 season. He currently plays for Asia’s most decorated club Al Halal in Saudi Arabia.
Nigerians are looking forward to Leicester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho replicating his form at the African Cup of Nations. Iheanacho’s half-volley against Egypt was one of the best goals at the AFCON tournament.
71-year-old rivalry continues
The football rivalry between these two nations dates back to 1950. With a total of 56 meetings, Ghana has won 21 times, Nigeria, 10 times and 18 of the games ending in a draw.
Pitch battle far from being over
After a series of meetings with over 30 players of the Super Eagles squad, President of Nigerian Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, had assured Nigerians that qualifying for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup is non-negotiable.