Black Stars Head Coach, Charles Kwabla Akonnor would be aiming for a positive start to Ghana’s World Cup qualifying campaign when his side line-up against the Walia Ibex of Ethiopia in the first round games of the FIFA 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifiers today at the Cape Coast Stadium.
On the back of Ghana’s dismissive friendly outings against Morocco in Rabat, where they lost 1-0 and an improved outing against Cote d’Ivoire in a goalless affair at the Cape Coast, Akonnor needs a win to restore confidence in his mandate as a tactician that can lead Ghana to its fourth World Cup appearance in Qatar next year, having missed football’s biggest competition in 2018.
The ex-Stars captain is wary a win may not be enough in the demanding eyes of Ghanaians but an emphatic win complemented by a strong performance from his players.
Ghana’s failure to score in the two friendlies was hugely discussedwith Akonnor and Captain Andre Ayew both admitting that it was a cause of grave concern that needed an immediate purge.
Since ‘rock star’ striker and forward AsamoahGyan, a reliable goal monger for the team went past his prime, the Stars have struggled for a dependable replacement.
Crystal Palace targetman, Jordan Ayew showed flashes of brilliance for a while but his inconsistent goal scoring habit has left Akonnor needing a dependable hitman, Caleb Ekubanand China-based Emmanuel Boatengto bang in the goals.
Compounding Akonnor’s problem is the absence of his two creative forces and influential figures, Arsenal’s Thomas Partey and Ajax Amsterdam’s Kudus Mohammed, who are both nursing injuries.
In their absence, Akonnor has StadeRennais youngster KamaldeenSulemana and former U-20 captain Yaw Yeboah to fill the void.
Luckily, Akonnor has enough experienced players in his fold to deliver a big win.
Captain Andre Ayew, his brother Jordan Ayew, Jonathan Mensah, Leicester City’s Daniel Amartey,WakasoMubarak, Baba Rahman and Andy Yiadom are available.
A feather in Akonnor’s cup will also be the fact that former Kotoko striker Kwame Opoku and Russian-based striker Joel Fameyeh, Accra Hearts of Oak’s Daniel AfriyieBarnieh and German-based duo Braydon Manu and Daniel Kofi Kyereh, all eager to prove to Akonnor that they can fill the slot as the Stars dependable marksman will be motivated to play their best game if fielded.
Despite Ghana’s favourable record against the Eastern African country, including a 5-0 thrashing in an African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier in Kumasi in 2017 and following it up with a 2-0 win a year later in the reverse fixture in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopians have been on a resurgence and qualified for their first Nations Cup since 2013.
Ironically, whilst the Stars struggled for goals, the Ethiopians are a free-scoring side, netting 10 times in six qualifying games and conceding six times whiles finishing second in group K behind Cote d’Ivoire.
The Ethiopians again proved their mettle in recent friendly games where they played goalless against Sierra Leone before edging Uganda 2-1.
Coach Webutu Abate has been a transformative figure for the Walia Ibex since he took charge last year; inspiring the likes of captain GataneKebede,the influential Abubeker Nassir and the experienced ShimelisBekele to excellent displaysunder his leadership.
Undoubtedly, theBlack Stars have a tough fight on their hands.
South Africa will kick-start games in the Group G qualifiers when they face Zimbabwe in an early kick-off at the National Sports Stadium in Harare before hosting the Black Stars on Monday in Johannesburg.