ThisDay -- Exactly 14 years after the Super Eagles of Nigeria lost 1-2 to Ghana's Black Stars in the semi-final of Senegal '92 Nations Cup finals, the two Anglo-West African countries renew their rivalry as they file out this afternoon at the 22,000 capacity Port Said Stadium, in Group D opening match of the on going tournament which enters day-four today.
Date line was 23rd January 1992 at the Stade d'Lamite in Dakar, the Eagles failed to hold on to an early first half lead scored by Mutiu Adepoju, whose intuitive header beat goalie Edward Ansah. They, however, but caved in to goals from Abedi Pele and Prince Opoku. Interestingly, the defeat came on Captain Stephen Keshi's birthday!
But when the two file out this afternoon in the group's opening match, it will be the first time both teams will be meeting at this stage of the competition since Ghana '78 when the host nation forced Nigeria to a pulsating 1-1 score line at the Accra Sports Stadium.
If there is anybody in today's tie that may still have an atom of revenge in his veins on Nigeria's side, then it is no other person than Coach Austin Eguavoen who was part of the defence line that failed to stop the attacking duo of Abedi Pele and Tony Yeboah.
“Its quite a long time now, I don't really have the venom of a revenge as you have pointed out to me because a lot of things has happened to the two countries since then and what is in my mind now is for Nigeria to get the better of Ghana in this clash and there after we can talk of the importance of the match.
“However, it is interesting to note the coincidence and it shows how time flies. If we are to set the tone for a revenge, I think it will better for my team to pick this one first and assist Nigeria to win this group which most analysts have tagged as the 'group of death',” Coach Eguavoen reflected yesterday after his team's final training session at the Port Said Stadium.
One of his assistant coaches, Samson Siasia, the striking partner of Rashidi Yekini in the same clash at Senegal '92, in an interview with THISDAYSports recalled how centre referee Jouini from Tunisia denied him of a penalty that may have translated to an equaliser when he was tripped from behind by Black Stars' strong man, Anthony Baffoe in the vital area.
“We do not deserve to lose the match because we were better in speed, strength and better scoring opportunities but things just went other way.
“However, going by history of previous meetings, its not going to be just another match because we both have a lot of things to settle particularly pride.
“With Ghana going for their first World Cup finals, they have to prove critics wrong that their qualification was not just a fluke with a match against Nigeria and on our own part, missing the Germany trip is still like a night mire and winning this tournament will be a good compensation to our numerous ball fans out there,” the former Flying Eagles coach to Holland 2005 pointed out.
Going by the ratings of the players after the final work out yesterday, it is very likely that Obafemi Martins and Julius Aghahowa will lead the Super Eagles attack, while inform Stephen Makinwa and Osaze Odemwingie may likely start from the bench.
Reports from the technical crew also favours Nwankwo Kanu, coming into the match in the second stanza and the plan is unconnected with the injury he sustained in his last premiership match for his club in England.
For the Black Stars who will be without key players like; Michael Essien and Stephen Appiah, their Serbian Coach Ratomir Dujkovic now faced with the big task of guiding the team to its fifth title especially at a time the euphoria of their first qualification to the World Cup finals is still burning.
The last time both countries met at the Nations Cup finals was at Mali '2002 when Nigeria cruised past their rivals by a lone goal scored by Garba Lawal in a one-sided quarterfinal match.