IKENWA NNABUOGOR alerts Super Eagles coach ‘Cerezo’ Augustine Eguavoen on the danger looming ahead in Abuja and tasks him to take no prisoners in sending Ghana home come Tuesday…
The year 1983 was a bad year to remember for Ghana after undocumented immigrants Ghanaians living in Nigeria were shown the door to return home as the neighbouring West Africa brothers groped in severe economic crisis that engulfed the country.
But come Tuesday, Eguaveon is expected to bring “1983” back on the lovely pitch of MKO Abiola National Stadium as the former AA Gent midfielder will have to conspire with his wards to send Ghana and their visiting Black Stars home, while they fly to Qatar 2022 World Cup finals in November.
For ‘Cerezo’ and his men, nothing short of victory will do for the Eagles, whose flags flew at “half mast” in the first leg of the crucial World Cup playoffs in Kumasi after a stalemated 0-0 draw.
Chances were gold-plated for the visiting Eagles in the Kumasi showdown and the net of the Black Stars’ goalkeeper Joojo Wollacot “refused” to receive the balls as Nantes’ winger Moses Simon and Joe Ayodele-Aribo of Glasgow Rangers failed to make hay.
A last-minute effort by substitute Frank Onyeka had lots of hurry written all over it as the Brentford midfielder nervously released a deflected shot after sending two on-rushing Black Stars’ defenders to the Disneyland when a touch or two deeper into the vital area would have released Victor Osimhen for the much-needed goal and advantage into the Abuja reverse tie.
But a draw is better than having them brutally beaten to have the Eagles to gleefully hug tension and apprehension in the Abuja return leg and Eagles must now have to beat their bitter adversaries to get to Qatar.
Worse still, another scoreless draw after 90 minutes in Abuja drags the crucial tie into extra time which could result to a sudden death winner or the lottery of penalties and whichever way it turns to be, the biggest worries are the Eagles.
To this end, Eagles did themselves in by fluffing the chances they had in Kumasi to invite undue pressures in Abuja, where the final decider will be settled.
It’s also argued that tables can also be turned in an event of an away victory and maximum points won because football has changed massively of late, but certainly not the kind of thoughts Eagles will be entertaining.
Black Stars were not particularly dominating in Kumasi expectedly as they looked very beatable and vulnerable – the situation Eagles failed to capitalize to take three precious points back to Abuja.
Besides, the Stars’ tactics didn’t look threatening as the ‘Oyinbo Wall” of captain William Troost-Ekong and returnee partner Leon Balogun contained them well, but Ghana’s improved tactics in Abuja cannot be wished away.
Eagles should expect the worst from the bruised Black Stars, who broke the hearts of 30 million Ghanaians by allowing their bitter rivals run away with a vital point in their Kumasi slaughter slab and they will stop at nothing to appease the fans, who are yet to forgive them for letting “tiny” Comoros Island to chase them away from the last African Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon.
‘Cerezo’ this is where the real danger lies after failing to make the Abuja job easier by taking the three golden chances handed them in Kumasi.
It appeared the wing play the Eagles coach brought back has only worked in his first three games, leaving the fans wondering when the killer mood will be restored again from the wings.
Moses was too “holy” in Cameroon, but it appears his “holiness” is fast deserting him as he was also effectively taken care of by the resolute Ghana defence who seemed to come to the Kumasi party for the Eagles attack only.
‘Cerezo’ could be regretting leaving out other wingers – Chidera Ejuke and Henry Onyekuru – as his preferred choice, Samuel Chukwueze was sent to the wilderness by a consortium of defenders led by Strasbourg hatchetman Alexander Djiku.
Could Ejuke have done better on the right side of the wings, where Chukwueze failed to fly to relieve the “besieged” Moses on the left?
Ejuke may have not particularly impressed the new coach with his ball carrying and excessive dribbles, but the former Heerenveen winger could be a menace any day on both wings.
Unlike Chukwueze, who’s only left-footed, Ejuke possesses impressive quick both feet to switch to with ease to head to goal or assist.
But ‘Cerezo’ is one coach who’s not shy and late to change tactics as he’s open to quickly re-gig his plans for a sharp change and it appears he will do that in Abuja as Ghana coach Otto Oddo isn’t done yet to wing play quashing counter operations.
So, how prepared is ‘Cerezo’ to join indigenous coaches late Shuaibu Amodu and late Stephen Keshi to grab a World Cup ticket for Nigeria?
Perhaps, Eguavoen is saving Saudi-based comebacking striker Odion Ighalo for the big Abuja clash which needs an outright victory for Eagles to make their seventh World Cup appearance.
The 2019 AFCON top scorer wwas surprisingly left on the bench for all 90 minutes in Kumasi to leave fans guessing if it was tactical or his services were not needed.
Watford striker Emmanuel Dennis was Eguavoen’s unlikely substitute as the Centurion Ahmed Musa and Almeria striker Umar Sadiq were also not considered to help out heavily policed Osimhen as resolute Ghana defence held out for a draw.
The Eagles midfield was instead fortitied with FC Lorient midfielder Bonke Innocent, who stood in for the unavailable Wilfred Ndidi to suggest that Eguavoen may be considering keeping out the opposition from the midfield.
It will be recalled that he quickly changed to fire from the midfield in the ill-fated AFCON second round ouster by Tunisia on an odd goal winner by bringing on Everton star Alex Iwobi and licensing him to drive his equalizer-seeking team from the midfield.
Iwobi appeared to be fully getting into the groove before the unfortunate sending off that also killed off whatever was left of their chances to come back at Tunisia, criminally condemned the three-time champions for a vicious loss.
With the return of Watford star Oghenetaro Etebo to the midfield, ‘Cerezo’ is spoilt for choice and the bragging rights to try to wrestle down Ghana from the midfield, should be saved in the Bank of Abuja.
Debutting Leicester City midfielder Ademola Lookman looked decent when he came on for the caged Moses and will only be adding to options in the midfield and still ‘Cerezo’ decides to stick to wing play, Lookman could be the perfect option.
In truth, the pressure is real in Abuja and the danger of losing the ticket to Ghana is even more daring and it remains to be seen if ‘Cerezo’ can make himself a hero or a villain come Tuesday.