Ghana and Sudan clash on Matchday 3 of World Cup qualification in Group D this Sunday, fully aware of the generous prize on offer: three priceless points which – although might ultimately prove insufficient to propel either side above early group leaders Zambia – would surely take the victors a step closer to one of Africa’s six designated Brazil 2014 tickets.
The Black Stars, playing at home, would hope to thrive very much on the usual vociferous support they receive at the chosen venue – Kumasi’s Baba Yara Stadium – to aid them in condemning the Sudanese to a reasonably heavy defeat. Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah would attempt to vindicate himself and his team after the disappointment brought by a failed glory hunt at Afcon 2013. The 53-year old has called up four new players -among whom Arsenal’s Emmanuel Frimpong (now on loan at Fulham) appears the most likely to make his international debut – yet would be rocked nonetheless by the last-minute withdrawal of the creative Christian Atsu of FC Porto due to injury. A win would be the Black Stars’ second in a sequence of three qualifying games, the first being a 7-0 mauling of Lesotho, with the less favourable result occurring in the form of a narrow loss away to Zambia last June. For Sudan, anything but victory – improbable as it might seem – would be disastrous, implying they would be obliged to attack as much as they would love to defend, be it as they possess just a point thus far in their campaign. The regular contingents from Al-Hilal and Al-Merreikh, the east African nation’s biggest club sides, would need to make their presence positively felt. Mohammed Abdullah Mazda, coach of the Jediane Falcons, would be counting dearly on that factor.
Both Sudan and Ghana have had their respective campaigns – which had seemed well on course until very recently – rendered infinitely more complex by a decision by Fifa to chalk off Sudan’s triumph over Zambia in the first game of the session and hand maximum points to the Chipolopolo as a consequence of the former’s fielding an ineligible player in their encounter. Subsequently, either side would be sure to keep a keen eye on the match between the group’s two other teams. An unlikely [positive] result for bottom-side Lesotho would reflect favourably on either team, particularly Ghana who could end the matchday within touching distance of the 2012 African champions or, at best, overtake them, courtesy a superior goal difference.