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03.09.2005 Sports News

Black Stars to seal World Cup berth

Ahmed Shiraj
Black Stars to seal World Cup berth

Cranes in to be outgunned, SA to fall in Ouagadougou Decades of always emerging the vanquished in photofinishing World Cup qualifying contests, Ghana's Black Stars will on Sunday, at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi, in a tie against the Cranes of Uganda, bid to put the record books into a must-review form.

The irony that has bedeviled African football since its inception has been the inability of the Ghanaians to register a debut in the most prestigious football showpiece event, the World Cup, but a critical pip through the current Black Stars camp reveals an all ubiquitous competent side that has overwhelming potency to keep alive, their pole position in Group 2 to give Ghana her debut berth at the World Cup.

History has it that Ghana has played a combined total of 53 World Cup qualifying matches, won 22, drew 16, lost 15 scored 74 goals against 50 considered, or a 56.60% competitive summary achievement rate. It also stands that Ghana has a 77.77% success at home against 34.62% away in away qualifying matches. This shows that the country has always failed at the last hurdle to win the deciding ties, hence her no show yet.

So far, the Black Stars squad has been an island of stability, managing to hold on to the core of consistency and unbeaten run in the qualifiers since June 2004 and with vows of real commitment meant to repay the faith shown in them by the nation, the resurrection of their clinical form in the qualifying campaign, is unlikely not to be met by the Stars.

With good credentials, with a prolific scoring record, the likes of skipper Stephen Appiah, Michael Essiene, Joetex Frimpong and Isaac Boakye cannot be never short on confidence to inspire the Ghana dream.

Having dominated the game continentwise with seven African Cup of Nations finals, four of which ended in triumphs, the Black Stars have been impressive so far in the campaign for a place in Germany 2006 but the pedigree of the opposition they will be contending is what many are fearful of.

Last week's pump of 96 million shillings into the Cranes team by the Ugandan government as well as the all-time head-to-head better record they have over the Stars, is an incentive for the visitors but on the other side, the Stars are enjoying in the greatest of motivation ever in its history couple with sheer determination.

The Cranes are 20th in the all-time African Nations Cup rating but their record against the Blacks Stars is that of an impressive one for them. Statistics are only for the records but it shows that Ghana has had a bad spell in matches against the Cranes as in five previous ties, it is only one victory to Ghana name, but two for the Cranes and draws in the remaining two.

The only victory the Black Stars can boost over the Cranes happened on 18 March 1978 when they won 2-0 in the 1978 Nations Cup final they hosted but their last two clashes have all ended in 1-1 draws so the cagey nature of the match is clear. The tactical prowess of Doya is could prove vital for Ghana. The qualifying series is now in a critical stage where any small slip is enough to seal doom for any campaigning nation so the Ratomir Dudjovic led Stars are most unlikely to allow themselves to be overridden by complacency.

The minor worry of the team would be the absence of regular left winger, Udinese's Sule Muntari but the presence of the rest is good news for the home team.

Africa's most expensive player Michael Essiene, Skipper Stephen Appiah and prolific striker and all-time CAF Champions League top goal scorer, Joetex Frimpong, are in great sharp ahead of the match, much as enterprising full backs, Emmanuel Addoquaye Pappoe, Issah Ahmed, John Mensah, Laryea Kingston and first choice goalkeeper, Sammy Adjei.

Dudjovic has also in his squad, the options of George owu , John Painstil, Hamza Mohammed, Godwin Attram, Yusif Chipsah, Abubakare Yahuza and Mathew Amoah.

Ugandan coach Muhammad Abbas is reportedly content with his team's preparation for this match which is more of a formality than a contest for them but it cannot be hidden that they up for an image saving victory which Ghana must be weary of. The likes of Rwandan based striker, Hassan Mubiru, Ibrahim Ssekajja and Timothy Batabaire, who orchestrated the Star's 1-1 draw in Kampala in the first round, are carriers of the Ugandan dream.

The critical nature of the contest in Group is demonstrated by the fact that both Ghana and South Africa are on 15 points with the former having a head-to-head advantage, the Congolese are on 12,two better than Cape Verde, three than the Burkinabe and five than the Ugandans.

The mathematics available with respect to the World Cup qualifying trend in Group 2 predicts that Ghana could be celebrating her debut berth at the quadrennial championship as early as Sunday provided the Burkina-South Africa match in Ouagadougou ends in a win for the former.

The 45 year wait by the Black Stars, Africa's all-time leading achiever in the world of football, to see the dawn World Cup glory is brighter than it has ever been, and they are unlikely to be set forth to escape the World Cup trail in its 81st year.

The biggest possibility that can be Imagined is a win for the Burkinabe who are desperate for a ticket to the Nations Cup in Egypt in 2006, so the Stars are unlikely to falter on Sunday to seal for Ghana, a place in Germany 2006 which has an $8.23 million appearance fee.

This calculation is supported by the fact that the fact that then, the South Africans can only get 18 points if they win their last match against the DR Congo. On 18 points each, South Africa would be hunted by the head-to-head clause of CAF/FIFA for the reason that they owe Ghana five goals in the qualifiers having been beaten over two legs.

The DRC whose dreams will be shattered if Ghana wins against Uganda, are at home to Cape Verde with star players, Shabani Nonda and Lomana Lualua kept in the line-up of the Simbas by coach Claudio Leroy.

Across the continent, the Hawks of Togo, the Palancas Negrass of Angola and the Elephants of the Ivory Coast all pole positioned for a place in Germany. Whereas the Ivorian would have to clear the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in Abidjan, Steven Keshi's Togo has a relatively easy tie against strugglers Liberia in Lome whilst in Kigali, a tough assignment awaits Angola, tied on points with Nigeria who are host of Zimbabwe in Group 4. Gabon v Algeria also in that group.

African champions Tunisia plays Kenya in Nairobi, Morocco takes on Botswana and Guinea hosts Malawi in Group 5. Today in Cairo, Egypt will play Benin and Libya and Sudan engages in an all North African derby in Group 3. Also in Group 1, Zambia contends Senegal and Mali host Congo Brazzaville.