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23.10.2008 Football News

Black Stars In 'Comfort Zone'

By Andrew Nortey - newtimesonline.com

Ghana was yesterday paired in a group soccer pundits described as a 'comfort zone' ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and CAN 2010 qualifiers in South Africa and Angola respectively.

Alongside perceived minnows like Benin, Sudan and Mali, a section of Ghanaian soccer fans heaved at sigh of relief after the draw held at FIFA headquarters in Zurich yesterday to pave the way for the continent's final phase of qualifiers for the twin events on African soil.

Opinions sought from soccer fans all pointed to a Ghana dominance over the three countries who participated in the last edition of the Africa Nations Cup held in Ghana from January 20 to February 10, 2008.

Veteran sports journalist, Kwabena Yeboah also described it as a manageable group.

But FA vice president, Fred Pappoe shares a different point of view.

Commenting moments after the draw, Pappoe  cautioned against any attempt to underrate any of the three countries paired with Ghana.

He said any attempt to underestimate the capabilities of the countries will be to Ghana's peril and advised fans and stakeholders involved in Ghana's qualification to be guided by history and rather channel their energies into the formation of a united front to conquer all to annex the sole slot allotted the group.

He said Ghana's maiden qualification to the FIFA showpiece was delayed because countries like Uganda, Liberia and Burundi who were touted as minnows were given little attention and succeeded in jolting her efforts.

“Memories like this must always be renewed when we come face to face with countries with similar status. It must rather ginger us to go all out”, he said.

More so, Mr Pappoe stressed that their participation in Ghana 2008 makes them worthy opponents who must attract all the seriousness they deserve.

And for him, the draw signals the beginning of Ghana's preparation. From now to the commencement of the qualifiers in 2009, the technical and management teams of the Black Stars will conduct serious monitoring on players plying their trades at home and abroad.

This, he said will afford them the opportunity to choose the right calibre of players to present a formidable team.

“We will marshal our forces available for this important assignment. There will be no room for complacency. We are going all out”, he assured.

The qualifiers, he said, will begin on March 28, 2009 with a home clash against the Squirrels of the Republic of Benin.

On June 6, 2009, the Black Stars will storm the city of Bamako to play as guests of Mali and honour a second successive away tie with the Sudan on June 20.

Ghana host Sudan in the return leg on September 5 at home, travels to Benin to face the Squirrels on October 10 and end with a home tie against Mali on November 14.

The full draw is as follows:

Group A:

Cameroon, Morocco, Gabon, Togo

Group B:

Nigeria, Tunisia, Kenya, Mozambique

Group C:

Egypt, Algeria, Zambia, Rwanda

Group D:

Ghana, Mali, Benin, Sudan

Group E:

Ivory Coast, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Malawi.

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