• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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International friendly: Nigeria, Ghana renew fierce rivalry in Marrakech

Eagles Marrakech

Nigeria and Ghana are set to reignite their fierce football rivalry in a high-stake international friendly match taking place in Marrakech, the capital of Morocco on Friday.

Both teams have their sights set on their upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup African qualifying matches in June.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria, currently with only two points from their first two matches, are gearing up to face South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in Uyo and Benin Republic in their next qualifiers.

Meanwhile, Ghana’s Black Stars, with three points secured so far, are preparing to take on Mali in Bamako before hosting the Central African Republic during the same international window.

While Nigeria is in Group C of the 2026 FIFA World Cup race alongside South Africa, Benin Republic, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Lesotho, Ghana are housed in Group I with Mali, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Comoros Islands and Chad.

Both teams, with seven AFCON titles between them, will duel without their top-impact players. Reigning African Player of the Year Victor James Osimhen, Nigeria’s major fear-carrier to the opposition, has had to scratch the big game due to an injury, same as his opposite number in the Black Stars camp, Mohammed Kudus.

The Black Stars will also play Uganda’s Cranes in Morocco, while the Super Eagles are up against Ghana’s group mates Mali on Tuesday.

Both Nigeria and Ghana were tied 0-0 in their last friendly game – played in London in October 2011.

Just as Thomas Partey’s first-half strike that went past Francis Uzoho’s flailing arms sent Ghana to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in a 1-1 draw with Nigeria in Abuja on 29th March 2022, Asamoah Gyan’s header that flew past Vincent Enyeama in Luanda on 28th January 2010 sent Ghana to the AFCON final and Nigeria to the third-place match.

The Super Eagles have not beaten the Black Stars in an official match since the latter fell to a well-taken free-kick by Taye Taiwo in an AFCON group phase encounter in Port Said, Egypt 18 years ago.

On Friday, an opportunity arises for new heroes to emerge as Nigeria will bank on 2023 AFCON stars Ademola Lookman, Moses Simon, Kelechi Iheanacho and Sadiq Umar at the fore to light up the Grand Stade de Marrakech.

Italy-based Lookman’s three goals sent Cameroon (two) and Angola (one) packing from the AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire and sent Nigeria to the last four.

Cyriel Dessers, who scored a delight against Mexico in a friendly in Dallas in the summer of 2022, and Nathan Tella are also available to Coach Finidi George.

Stand in Super Eagles coach Finidi George is likely to stick to AFCON 2023 number one Stanley Nwabali in goal, and perhaps Chidozie Awaziem, Kenneth Omeruo, Semi Ajayi, Calvin Bassey and Jamilu Collins behind a midfield of Alex Iwobi and Frank Onyeka or Alhassan Yusuf.