The Ghana - Nigeria match would have put many a child to sleep

The Ghana -Nigeria was billed as a ‘BIG’ game, a match between rivalries etc etc. Despite the different places the two teams found themselves, we still expected non-stop action.

Yet, it was there for all who watched to see. This must have been the most boring Black Stars match I have watched in recent memory and it did not live up to the hype nor the history.It eventually petered out to a goalless draw.

Last weekend’s Tema Youth – Kumasi Asante Kotoko league match was probably more interesting than anything I watched on Tuesday. I could say the players were going through the motions but I am certain we see more during the slower paced practice sessions of the team. A match so pedestrian leaves people scratching their heads and allows for conspiracy theorists to emerge. Apparently some people are suggesting the match was fixed prompting one of the match organizers to issue vehement denials.

After a determined and focused display to ensure qualification for the Cup of Nations 2012, I was expecting more. Coach Goran Stevanovic did as he promised and changed his line up from that match. ¬†Asamoah Gyan, Sulley Muntari, Samuel Inkoom, Derek Boateng got a rest while Daniel Opare wasn’t even in London.

The first half was more eventful with Nigeria coming the closest to scoring, a shot whizzed by Adam Kwarasey and hit the bar, with the keeper clearly beaten. The Ghanaians mainly looked to half chances to open the scoring. The second half was even worse despite the introduction of some of the first team regulars.

Still we got to see a few new players who will be in contention to round up the squad come January. Massawudu Alhassan started at left back and he held his own. Unsurprisingly, he is looking to become a permanent fixture and resolve the left back position. Mohammed Abu and Albert Adomah were two players who also got their first starts. Again, I can’t say they made much of a case beyond being in contention to round out the squad of 23 come January. Players like Abu and Rabiu Mohammed will likely be fighting for any remaining midfield places after the usual suspects are picked.

It will be intriguing to find out how much Stevanovic takes from the bit part appearances of some of the fringe players. What is he looking for when he invites a new player? How does he know a new player can feature for him long term? He shed more light on his vision but many more questions remain. Regardless of the coach’s vision and in effect his final squad of 23 the pressure on him to win will be enormous, a fact he recognizes but tries to downplay.

It’s Ghana vs Nigeria…AGAIN!

Need we say more?

Sometimes just saying Ghana versus Nigeria is enough. Just showing the two flags side by side is enough. You add taunting like the Ghanaian group, FOKN Bois did in a recently released song and the richter scale cannot handle the truth.

The truth is that at this point the Ghanaians are in a more confident and assured place than the Nigerians who seem to have many more questions than answers. The Super Eagles failed to qualify for the 2012 edition of the Cup of Nations and the dirges that will be composed will not even do justice to the despondency of the Eagles fans. As Sunday Oliseh put it to the BBC and I’m paraphrasing here, at least if you don’t qualify for the World Cup you can put up your hands and say ok fine we’re not among the best teams in the World. But when you don’t qualify for the Cup of Nations it is not easy to stomach that you’re not even among the 16 best teams on the continent ‘jare.’

Some Ghanaians however are taking the confidence too far and will tell anyone who will listen that the 2012 cup is theirs. As someone put it, one hand is already on the trophy. A resurgent Senegal and Tunisia and an always talented Cote d’ Ivoire will be saying ‘the audacity!!!’ Thankfully, some of the Stars while recognizing an opportunity remain level-headed.

This is the backdrop heading into Tuesday’s friendly. Ghana is on a high, Nigeria is despondent. An inquest has been commissioned into the Eagles’ performance while Samson Siasia has apologized. Agony reigns and even in Ghana I detect less of the usual glee that greets a Nigerian loss. Call it a case of not wishing this on your worst enemy.

The game will not be called off though. We went down that road once already with the London riots forcing a cancellation of the much hyped game. It might have been a more meaningful contest then. Either way, the current difference in moods will not stop both coaches from defining their own objectives. Ghana might look to experiment while for Nigeria it’s ‘Just Win Baby!

Nigeria are in soul searching mode but will be looking to revenge the humiliating 4-1 loss against Ghana in London years back. Hopefully they don’t panic and make knee-jerk moves. Siasia has instilled some discipline in the team and showed that he’s willing to make some tough choices. With time and with an U-23 squad ready to produce a few more talented players to the Super Eagles, a resurgent Nigeria will be ready to make an impact in 2013. Nevertheless, a loss against Ghana will be the ‘coup de grace’ and Siasia’s qualities will not matter. A win and he might artfully dodge his way into staying on as coach.

Ghana have to continue to develop a style that defines their play under Stevanovic, as well as find more personnel that will play that style and round up his CAN 2012 team. Stevanovic will therefore use this as an opportunity to see some of his new boys in competitive action. Even in experimenting though, they want to keep on winning and feeling good about themselves – especially against Nigeria.