Kumasi Asante Kotoko have a grudge date on Sunday to subdue Dolphins FC of Nigeria as the two sides settle the issue of who better deserves to advance into the next stage of the CAF Confederations Cup tournament.
With two goals already in the kitty for the Nigerian side from the first leg encounter played in Calabar, it is all clear what scorelines Kotoko would have to produce to advance, arguably a tall order.
But the Nigerians appear to be up to some mind games already, protesting/appealing for fair officiating ahead of the second leg decider.
Dolphins have indeed written to CAF to impress upon Kotoko to provide the best of hospitality for the return leg, and thus raking up some sentimental comments among followers of Kotoko. It is not as though Kotoko are known to maltreat their guests, and the fans anguish is well founded.
Perhaps it is only a mind game. But on the greeny field of the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi, venue for the decider, both sides are going to need more than mind games.
Beyond the lure of advancing into the next stage, clearly both sides have enough to motivate them into non-stop action. Asante Kotoko, facing a second Nigerian side on the trot in the same competition after edging out Wikki Tourists, are determined not to succumb to Dolphins. Plus, Dolphins have once walloped Kotoko's bitter rivals, Accra Hearts of Oak 4:0 and gone on to eliminate them from the 2005 version of the same competition where they played in the finals and trust that the Porcupine Warriors would want to secure a bragging right over Hearts by sacrificing Dolphins.
But the Nigerians have their own winning permutations. Wikki may be their opponents in the local Nigerian league, but they sure are compatriots and avenging their 4:1 defeat by Kotoko is a fillip too beckoning. How they dance in the sea of red expected to be painted in Kumasi is what remains to be seen.
They would be the first to admit that Kotoko let them off the hook in the first leg, blowing away chances they should have converted. In Kumasi, Kotoko may not have that luxury, especially when the mass of their followers, impatient for victory at any game, will be urging the players on to score the needed goals.
Of course in Dolphins, Kotoko may be meeting a much stiffer opposition and how their rear, marshalled around Dan Acquah fares, may determine if Dolphins will not be adding to their advantage.
From all indications, a tough game is anticipated and Dolphins' strike force of Victor Ezeji, Kelechi Osunwa, Uwazuoke Wobo and Ochuko Ojobo, will be equally matched by the combined forces of 'General' Emmanuel Osei Kufour, Eric Bekoe, Francis Coffie and Osei Kwame Jnr.
Author: Isaac Yeboah