This is not about being patriotic but facts that are available makes it look like the Super Eagles of Nigeria will qualify ahead of the Black Stars of Ghana.
Though it is not going to be easy because of rivalry between the two countries in the past but the Super Eagles seem to have an edge over the Ghanaians.
Firstly, the quality of players in both teams are not comparable. The Eagles have better and more quality players in the team than their counterparts. Apart from the Ayew brothers (Jordan and Andre), Partey of Arsenal, former Chelsea’s defender, Baba and maybe one or two other players, every other player in that team look like below average except they want to raise their game above that because of their rivalry with Nigeria.
In the Nigerian team, majority of the players are players that are far better than the Ghanaians. The likes of Victor Osihmen, Wilfred Ndidi, Moses Simon, Samuel Chukwueze, Sadiq Umar, Zaidu Sanusi just to mention a few are top notch and will pick shirt in any team in Africa including some teams in Europe.
However, apart from the quality of players in the Super Eagles team, another factor that will give the Nigerian team ahead of Ghana is the return of some Super Eagles players into the team. The likes of Victor Osihmen, Odion Jude Ighalo, Oghenekaro Etebo will be an added advantage to the team.
The absence of some of the players in the just-concluded African Cup of Nations, AFCON was felt especially when the team was boxed into a corner by the Tunisians.
Another factor that makes the Eagles’ qualification look good ahead of their opponent is the quality of play if the AFCON’s performance of both teams are anything to go by.
The Super Eagles team was the only team that got nine points in the group stage of the AFCON before they were sent packing by Tunisia. Even though they couldn’t score in that match, they still gave good account of themselves. They fought gallantly but that cannot be said of the Ghanaians who crashed out disgracefully. They were denied the next round by a lowly-rated country, Comoros.
Another factor that will play a major role is that the first leg will be played in Cape Coast, Ghana. That place looks like a neutral ground for the Black Stars unlike places like Accra and Kumasi, which look like slaughter grounds for away teams because of the harshness of their supporters in those stadia.
The Super Eagles might just surprise Ghana at home or at worst grab a draw but coming to Nigeria in the last game might not be too comfortable for them because they will not enjoy home support even if they come with a plane load with supporters’ club, they might not be heard with the number of supporters’ clubs from Nigeria that will be present at the stadium on that day.
Of course, the Super Eagles will be under pressure to perform because they know within themselves that they disappointed many of their fans at the last AFCON. They will want to prove that what happened at the AFCON was a huge mistake and would want to correct things. Ghana on the other hand will also want to do the same but the question is, do they really have what it takes to correct things quickly? It will definitely take time for them to correct the anomalies in that team especially the internal wranglings and allegations of usage of voodoo amongst the players.
Lastly, however, to qualify with ease, Coaches Austine Eguavoen and Emmanuel Amuneke should not attempt to introduce new players into the match because they might just shoot themselves on the legs. Yes, they can invite new players to train with the team so that they can start understudying the team but featuring them might not be a good option especially when it comes to African football because of the physicality involved. And if at all they want to introduce new player, it shouldn’t be from the blast of the whistle, such player should come from the bench after he must have study the match.
Note that, it might take the new players time to settle down and understand the way the team plays hence this is not the best time to experiment with the team. Players like Lookman and others that Amaju is still working on should just wait till after the qualifiers. A word is enough for the wise…