We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Sun 3 Feb 2008 08:15 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Rivals clash in Accra

Regional rivals Ghana and Nigeria battle it out on Sunday for a place in the African Nations Cup semi-finals.

A strong sea breeze here Saturday will seem like nothing to the storm brewing Sunday when regional rivals Ghana and Nigeria battle it out for a place in the African Nations Cup semi-finals.

The stakes couldn't be higher for this quarter-final of the 2008 Nations Cup, with Ghana still smarting after their west African neighbours dished out a first round beating to the Black Stars in 2006 and again in the 2002 quarter-finals.

Nigeria are sweating over the fitness of captain Nwankwo Kanu, who has missed the last two games after picking up a knock in the opener against Ivory Coast.

"I'll make a decision tonight on Nwankwo," said coach Berti Vogts after the Portsmouth star trained with the team at Accra's Ohene Djan stadium on Saturday afternoon. "He trained yesterday and today," added the German.

Kanu himself did not appear as optimistic as his boss about making Sunday's clash. "I feel so bad about it but I haven't fully recovered," he said.

Kanu believes the pressure is firmly on the shoulders of the Black Stars, in front of their home crowd and warned the Cup hosts Nigeria were here to do the business.

"We had to play catch up after losing the first match, but game by game we're improving. It's sometimes better not to start a competition like this too good, like we've done."

Newcastle striker Obafemi Martins is itching to get on the scoring sheet at this Nations Cup with a goal against Michael Essien and company.

"I haven't scored yet but as a striker you just have too keep trying and trying. I'm disappointed I haven't scored yet, but hopefully that will come tomorrow."

Vogts predicted an open game. "It's going to be very even. Ghana have played well up to now, we didn't start well, we were missing some key players, but now we're back in the competition. I'll tell the players they have nothing to lose."

Ghana are expected to field a full strength side, with Asamoah Gyan set to have recovered from a slight groin strain while Hearts midfielder Laryea Kingston returns from a one match ban.

Nigeria will be without suspended winger Peter Osaze Odemwingie.

Nigeria have been given added incentive as if any were needed to beat the Black Stars with the players' bonus for winning on Sunday raised from 9,000 to 15,000 dollars.

Ghana legend Abedi Pele Ayew is adamant Ghana have enough in the tank to inflict defeat on the Super Eagles.

In an interview with the BBC the three time African footballer of the Year predicted: "We have the men who will stand up and be counted on the day - that's where we have the edge."

Ghana's former captain led his team to a famous semi-final win over Nigeria in the 1992 African Nations Cup with Ghana going on to lose the final on penalties to Ivory Coast.

'Pele', whose son, Marseille midfielder Andre Dede Ayew, features in the Ghana squad, highlighted the nature of the rivalry between the two African heavyweight footballing powers.

"The rivalry has always been there because we are neighbours, especially in football," he said.

"We were made independent as a country before Nigeria. They are a big country in terms of population whereas Ghana is very small and we have won more African titles than them."

"The rivalry starts between Nigerians and Ghanaians at school and continues all the way to the biggest stage. All of these factors create the atmosphere and help to make ties like these wonderful games."

Ghana's Nottingham Forest attacker Junior Agogo commented: "There's going to be a lot of passion, a lot of hard tackling, but we're ready, the boys are buzzing to get the game started."

Ghana and Nigeria kick off at 1700 GMT with Ivory Coast and Guinea set for 2030 in Sekondi.

On Monday defending champions Egypt take on Angola in Kumasi with the remaining quarter-final between Tunisia and Cameroon being held in Tamale.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

For all the latest sports news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.