African powerhouse nation Ghana host Benin in the opening game of the second phase of joint qualifying for both the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the 2010 African Nations Cup.
Kick-off: Sunday, March 29 2009, 15:30 (CET), Baba Yara Sports Stadium, Kumasi.
Man Under Fire: The pressure is on for Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac, who has made one of the most daring selections by a national coach in recent years. The Serbian kept an entire nation guessing before releasing a list that came as a shock to some fans. The 22-man squad to face Benin in the opening 2010 World Cup qualifier is part of a wider pool of players he will be relying upon during six games that could catapult him to hero status if he eventually achieves World Cup qualification.
Previous coach, Ratomir Djukovitch managed to send the Black Stars to their first ever World Cup finals, and Rajevac is under intense pressure to deliver similar results for the Ghanaian people. The tactician, who doesn't have much support in the country, is still struggling to integrate himself with the culture and after failing to lead the Local Black Stars to glory in the CHAN tournament in Cote d'Ivoire earlier this month, the fans are calling for him to be sacked.
Benin Looking To Surprise
Ghana have traditionally been slow starters in major competition qualifiers and in 2006 lost their opening final group qualifier against Burkina Faso before recovering to qualify ahead of South Africa. They come up against a Benin side that is, for the most part, based in the French leagues. Only two of the players in the squad picked for this encounter ply their trade in the Benin top flight.
Home advantage will no doubt be a big factor in this game, but the visiting minnows should not be counted on, as they will certainly put up a fight. The clash will be the first meeting between the two sides since Ghana beat Benin 4-2 in the finals of the Zenith Four Nation tourney in Accra in November 2007, a competition proving the fact that Benin can hold their own in Africa.
Hearts Midfielder Laryea Kingston has been ruled out for two months with a torn ligament, and will therefore be unavailable. NAC Breda striker Matthew Amoah is also out with an injury to his knee suffered in January. Asamoah Gyan and Michael Essien are back in the squad after recoveries from injury, while defender John Mensah will not recover in time for the game. Junior Agogo and Haminu Dramani were not selected for the Benin game.
Squad: Richard Kingston, Philemon MacCarthy, John Paintsil, Samuel Inkoom, Harrison Affu), Nana Akwasi Asare, Jonathan Mensah, Jonathan Quartey, Isaac Vorsah, Eric Addo, Daniel Yeboah, Rahim Ayew, Moussa Narry, Stephen Appiah, Michael Essien, Anthony Annan, Sulley Muntari, Kwadwo Asamoah, Asamoah Gyan, Mathew Amoah, Samuel Yeboah, Prince Tagoe.
The squad includes the influential trio of Sessgnon Stephane of Paris Saint-Germain, burly striker Razak Omotoyossi of Saudi side, Al Nasr and Maiga Abou of French second division side, US Creteil. The rest of the team is dominated by players from French Lower divisions and has only two local players in Patrice and Salomon Junior.
Squad: Djidonou Yoann, Tardieu Beno, Adenon Khaled, Adjamossi, Agnide Moustapha, Chrysostome Damien, Glele John, Johnson Reda, Salomon Junior, Ahoueya Jocelyn, Angan Pascal, Boco Romuald, Djokoue Patrice, Kobena Nouhoum, Koukou Djiman, Olou Oscar, Tchomogo Seidah, Sessegnon Stephane, Omotoyossi Razak, Pote Micka, Maiga Abou.
Ghana will make the most of home advantage in this game, using the support from their fans to motivate themselves to a win over opposition that, on paper, is inferior to them. Benin will fight in the game, but I feel that anything short of a good win for Ghana is an unlikely prediction. Home advantage will certainly be a tough obstacle for Benin to overcome.
Ghana 3-0 Benin