What Nigerians/Cameroonians/Algerians wouldn’t give to be in Ghana’s stead in the race to qualify for the 2018 Fifa World Cup, namely, being in a group which features sides that, on a good day, should pose little trouble!
But Group E isn’t exactly going to be a walk in the park for Ghana, as KickerGH’s profile of the teams to be taken on by the Black Stars in a quest to be present at a fourth showpiece shows.
Name: The Pharaohs
Coach: Hector Cuper
World Cup appearances: 2 (1934, 1990)
Current Fifa Ranking: 45th (eight places beneath Ghana)
For all their continental brilliance (no side beats their seven Afcon triumphs), the Pharaohs have had rather little impact on the world stage. The last time they tried even getting there — a full decade-and-half after only their second and last appearance — Ghana crushed them over two legs in the final qualifying round. But Egypt, after a general slump that’s stifled them for much of the past six years, are a team re-born. They’ve sealed a ticket to a first Nations Cup since 2010, are out of the frustratingly dormant transitional stage which has bred the likes of Mohameds Elneny and Salah, and have at their helm Argentine Hector Cuper — a well-travelled man who, among other things, has reached two European Cup finals in succession (albeit losing both). Scary?
Hell, yeah. . .
Name: Les Diables Rouges (The Red Devils)
Coach: Pierre Lechantre
World Cup appearances: Nil
Current Fifa Ranking: 60th (23 places beneath Ghana)
The weaker of the two Congos (Clue: not the good ol’ ‘doctor’) isn’t a side most Ghanaians would feel obliged to lose sleep over. Like Uganda, Congo have never once been a part of any Mundial but, for what it’s worth, they are a one-time winner of the Cup of Nations and reached the quarter-finals of said competition’s last edition [before being edged by their more illustrious neighbours]. Now those feats don’t exactly elicit fear in a fan of a team of Ghana’s calibre, but it should make the Congolese — who’ve been in the business of qualification for the world’s greatest footballing event for more than half a century — appear more of a threat than they seem. They may ultimately not prove good enough to reach Russia but, under the guidance of 2000 Afcon-winning coach Pierre Lechantre, it wouldn’t be beyond them to do their best stopping others from realising that dream.
Name: The Cranes
Coach: Milutin Sredojevic
World Cup appearances: Nil
Current Fifa Ranking: 72nd (35 places beneath Ghana)
Uganda are probably the weakest of Group E’s lot. The East Africans never contested the race to be at a Fifa World Cup till 1978 and haven’t had any success since. For the 2006 Mundial, Uganda were, with Ghana, part of a six-team pool of which they finished bottom — while the Stars ended up at the other end of the table — after losing 2-0 in Kumasi and settling for a 1-1 draw at home. The Ugandans aren’t exactly a force at continental level either, having failed to appear at an edition of the Africa Cup of Nations since 1978 when they were runners-up to Ghana [in Ghana, lol] and, despite their severe limitations, would be seeking to improve their international reputation with these qualifiers. Coached by experienced Serbian Sredojevic — a man who’s also handled African club giants Orlando Pirates, Yanga, Al-Hilal Omdurman as well as the Rwandan national team — and getting to this stage by thrashing 2006 World Cup finalists Togo on a 4-0 aggregate, Uganda would hardly lack self-belief.