29 January 2014

Nigeria/Ghana: West African Derby Eagerly Awaited

Photo: 2010 FIFA OC
A Super Eagles fan.

Ghana and Nigeria are expected to take the 3rd edition of Orange African Nations Championship another notch up when they clash in the semi-final at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein. The Wednesday 29th January match provides the tournament with a high profile duel many were hoping for.

There is hardly a dull moment when the two West African sides meet and the Super Eagles come into the game as the highest scoring side in the competition. After losing their opening match (2-1) to Mali the Super Eagles have gone on to win the next three and seemingly improving with each outing. This performance has not gone unnoticed by the Black Stars coach, Maxwell Konadu, "Nigeria has been playing well and l am aware their confidence is up but this will be a different game and what has happened before counts for little. On Wednesday we will play to win and make sure we are in the final on 1st February. Their playing well leading to this stage means we have to be on guard against them and that we defend well which we have done solidly so far. They will not have their way with us as we will be well prepared for them. There is no way we are going to give them the opportunities to do what they want," said the former Ghana national team player Konadu.

In contrast to Nigeria's free- scoring side, goals have been few for the Black Stars something that has prompted suggestions that Nigeria will outscore them. Konadu's response has simply been that they would not have got this far without winning and a win is a win even by a single goal. "If we are scoring and winning matches l am a happy man and we are at the semi-final stage because of winning games be it by a single goal or more." Said Konadu.

Meanwhile Konadu's opposite number and African Coach of the Year 2013, Stephen Keshi has called upon his team to pick up from where they left in the quarter final. "The belief that as a team they can accomplish something is very encouraging and good to see. It is good to play Ghana with that kind of spirit. The hunger to succeed is there for all to see and although it will be a tough match against Ghana l expect us to overcome." Said Keshi.

Super Eagles goalkeeper Chigozie Agbim added on that they were not looking forward to repeating the ordeal of the quarter finals where they needed to comeback from three goals down to reach semis. "We have been working on eliminating the kind of mistakes against Morocco. We started slowly and perhaps showed too much respect to the North Africans who almost made us pay. We will do things differently against Ghana" said the goal minder.

Keshi will be without Benjamin Francis, Ikenna Paul and Gbolahan Salami for the Ghana game after the trio failed to shake off injuries sustained in earlier matches, " I have 20 players to select from for Wednesday's game as three players are not fit to play. The selected first 11 and the others will and should do the business," said Keshi. On a more positive note Nigeria welcomes the return of Solomon Kwambe from suspension and is expected to reclaim his place in the starting XI, while Bright Esieme will return to left back as cover for injured Benjamin Francis.

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