Ghana v Zambia

Friday 06 September (18:00) - Ghana

Michael Essien - Ghana

Michael Essien – Ghana

Ghana play host to Zambia for their final Group D 2014 World Cup qualifier.  The winner will advance to the third and final round of the qualifiers in the African zone. The Black Stars lead Group D on 12 points, only one point ahead of their Zambian counterparts ahead of this crucial fixture.

Ghana have won four of their five qualifying matches and have an impressive record of scoring 16 goals and conceding just two. Their last match was an away tie to Lesotho and the Black Stars got the job done with a 2-0 victory, and beat the same rivals 7-0 in the reverse fixture. Ghana’s striker Asamoah Gyan has been in good goalscoring form throughout the qualifiers with 4 goals in his 5 matches. The home team will be bolstered by the return of in-form midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, brothers Jordan and Andre Ayew after temporary retirement, as well as a return to the international fold for Sulley Muntari.

Of course, coach James Appiah vowed not to call on the latter’s services after being shown disrespect by Muntari, after the Lesotho clash. However, a letter of apology by Muntari to the national team coach has gone a long way to mending ties, as the influential player has received a call up. Appiah now has fresh options to consider and stated, “I am happy that they have made themselves available to play for the Black Stars and I am ready to work with every player. We are all chasing the same goal, winning against Zambia.” Ghana’s veteran midfielder Michael Essien will also be making a return to the squad and his experience will certainly be needed against Zambia.

The belief that Chipolopolo could just make it past the Black Stars is growing in Zambia. Ghana will be wary of how dangerous Zambia can be after their shock 1-0 defeat at the hands of the very same opponents in the 2012 AFCON. Of course, Chipolopolo repeated the same feat by the exact same scoreline in the reverse fixture, in Ndola, courtesy of Captain Christopher Katongo’s strike. However, a lot has happened since and the visitors were frustrated when held to a 1-1 draw at home against Sudan in their last World Cup qualifier.

With the home team only needing a draw to progress to the last stage of qualifying, the visitors will need to take the game to their opponents and go all out for the vital three points. Jacob Mulenga, Katongo and Collins Mbesuma have formed a lethal alliance in attack, with an impressive seven goals between the trio in the five qualifiers, whilst defensive kingpin Stoppila Sunzu will be back at the heart of defence. Zambia are the only undefeated team in the group with three wins and two draws from five games, scoring 10 goals and conceding just two. However, that unbeaten streak will count for nothing if Chipolopolo fail to secure victory.

Home ground advantage will play a vital role in this tense fixture. The Black Stars need only a draw to progress, but they have far too many attacking options to sit back and defend. This promises to be a fast free-flowing match but the pressure may be too much for the visitors to handle. Their stat of never qualifying for a World Cup doesn’t look like changing and The Black Stars are tipped to claim the victory and qualification into the next round.

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