They’re both ‘Black’, but which — between the Stars and the
Mambas — would prove superior when Ghana and Mozambique clash twice
this week?

The 2017 Cup of Nations’ double-header fixtures across the 13
qualifying groups promise to produce lots of drama, if not necessarily
quality, as whatever happens
in these matches is bound to feel anti-climactic.

Ghana sits comfortably atop Group H with six points from
its two opening games
while Mozambique, the opponents to be faced twice in four days, have
nothing as yet to their
name. Only one side is guaranteed an automatic place at
next year’s Afcon in
Gabon, with the first runner-up offered a remote chance of making it
through. Given the emotional strain the Black Mambas put a Pierre-Emerick
Aubameyang-led Gabonese
side through in the 2018 World Cup qualifying playoffs back in
November 2015 — the last
time Mozambique played
any competitive game — it is hard not to believe that strong display
will give Abel Xavier’s side more of a chance than it may
otherwise have had.

Gabon, on that occasion, had to overcome resolute Mozambique only
through the lottery
of penalties. The Mozambicans ultimately succumbed to self-doubt as they
failed to turn domination in the second half into a win and eventually
surrendered their 1-0 lead from Maputo by the end
of regulation time. The extra half-hour that followed saw the
Portuguese gaffer set his side out in a
way that made it
incredibly difficult for Gabon to penetrate.

Mozambique sat
narrow and deep, tearing Gabon apart with long balls and pace on the
flanks of Zé Luis and Kito.
That it all ended in defeat on penalties, despite their enterprise, would have
made the southern African nation feel a bit hard done by.

Ghana’s own last competitive fixture, also a Russia 2018 qualifier,
climaxed with a spontaneous roar that greeted Jordan
Ayew’s late winner against Comoros. Its sheer volume,
a reflection of the prevailing feeling of desperation that
the Black Stars were almost bottling a chance to make it to a fourth
straight Mundial, was extraordinary. If that experience with lowly
Comoros was anything go by, it is a testament to how narrow
the gap between the
powerhouses and minnows of African football
has become. Mozambique, though currently bottom of the log with no
points, will be
well-organised and hard
to beat. These sentiments were echoed by Stars’ head coach Avram
Grant in an interview

“We will have to be at our best against Mozambique to
beat them,” the Israeli said after almost all of his invited
cavalry had touched down to
ready themselves for battle.

Grant, though, will be
without one of his most
trusted lieutenants, Ghana deputy skipper Andre Ayew, but red-hot
Frank Acheampong looks more than
capable of fitting into the Swansea City man’s role. Ghana would seal
qualification with a win in Accra and at
least a point in the reverse at the
Estadio Nacional De Zimpeto in Maputo, and Ghanaians, needless to say, would expect no less.


Predicted IX: Black Stars vs Mozambique


predicted X I - Mozambique

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