The Super Eagles can be happy with their World Cup playoff draw, but they must not rest. Nigeria appeared to be delighted with their 0-0 draw in the first leg of their World Cup playoff against Ghana on Friday.
The scary prospect of playing at the Baba Yara Stadium, as well as the Black Stars’ track record in Kumasi, dominated the build-up to the game, but there was no replay of Ghana’s stunning 6-1 thrashing of Egypt at the same stage four years ago.
Instead, the two teams neutralized each other in a 0-0 draw, leaving both teams optimistic about their chances in the return leg.
Nigeria, who navigated Kumasi, will be confident in their ability to take control in front of their own fans, but Ghana, fresh off a disappointing Africa Cup of Nations, can take heart in how they stopped a stronger team.
The Black Stars, in my opinion, may be satisfied with how Friday’s match went, even if home advantage has already passed them by without a win.
With Mohammed Kudus playing ahead of Thomas Partey and Iddrisu Baba in the centre of the park, the Black Stars were able to gain the control and solidity that they lacked during the Nations Cup.
Partey could focus on more basic duties alongside Baba—both of whom were assisted by Wilfred Ndidi’s absence—while Kudus’ forward movement helped create space for those around him.
While Jordan Ayew’s goal drought is unlikely to change anytime soon, he also played a key role in challenging Nigerian defenders, running the channels, and creating space for others around him.
With Daniel-Kofi Kyereh’s brilliant use of the ball in the second half, Felix Afena-Gyan’s maturity beyond his years in his international debut, and Abdul Issahaku’s promise, Ghana has an attacking strategy packed with ideas and invention.
Ghana is still a long shot in a one-off shootout for Qatar, but Addo and Kudus have at least rekindled some Black Stars pride after their poor Nations Cup performance in Cameron.