African powerhouses, Egypt and Ghana are set to lock horns in an expected fierce battle in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying rounds Sunday evening.
The Group E encounter in the African qualifiers to the Russia tournament is scheduled for the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria. Kickoff is at 16:00 GMT.
Both countries enter into this game with pride and history at stake. Egypt will want to revenge the 7-3 goal aggregate hammering by the visitors en route to Brazil 2014 in a two leg affair. Black Stars, on the other hand attend this game with all the necessary seriousness, after drawing goalless at home with Uganda. Certainly, a slip for Ghana will spell doom and will leave them five points behind Egypt.
The absence of Asamoah Gyan is a big blow for the nation undoubtedly. His presence up front is enough to put fear and draw defenders to himself for other players to cause damage. Stepping into the frame is deputy captain Dede Ayew, who has admitted that he is half fit ahead of the game. Very evident in his last three matches he’s featured for West Ham after returning from injury has been ordinary. However, reports gathered from Ghana’s camp suggest the team is in high spirit and are ready to leave Egypt with at least a point.
Head coach Avram Grant might decide to go all out deploying an attacking line-up against the backdrop of failing to pick a win in his last four matches and especially the opening group game in the World Cup qualifiers. Since his appointment, Grant has been able to switch from an indoctrinated one top system mechanized by previous coaches to a 4-4-2 formation with fluidity in midfield. The midfield commanded by Mubarak Wakaso and Afriyie Acquah has won the trust of Avram in doing an excellent job in time past. Wakaso is one utility player who provides shield for the defenders and supplies long balls to the attackers upfront – as well as tough tackling and robust Aquah, noted for closing up spaces and his man-marking duties.
Notably, North African teams are known for using the width to stretch defense, making use of the wing-backs and a momentarily loss of concentration you are punished. They are very quick, fast and play a high pressing game from the midfield. In aerial duels they are very good and tend to use high balls – dangerous when it comes to set-pieces and dead ball situations.
The recent form of Mohammed Salah could send fear down the spine of the Ghanaian defenders – having started every single game for AS Roma and netted eight goals in the process. Stoke City’s Ramadan Sobhi is another trickery attacking midfielder who is noted for giving defense splitting passes and in addition can also shoot from afar.
Egypt have picked nine (9) wins out of their last 13 games played, losing two (2) and drawing (2). Far better than the Black Stars who have recorded six (6) victories and six (6) draws with one defeat. But history could once again befall the four-time AFCON winners with Saturday 12th November, being exactly 17 years Ghana won 2-1 against Egypt in Cairo with an expatriate coach, Guiseppe Dossena as the Pharaohs also presented Gerard Gili from France.
Statistically, Ghana and Egypt has met 20 times since July 1960. The home side reign superior with 10 wins, five (5) draws and five losses (5).
The Black Stars, historically, are noted for pulling surprises whenever expectations are on the low. The 1982 Cup of Nations, Angola 2010 and recently Gabon-Equatorial Guinea 2015 are perfect examples. General interest among Ghanaians appear quite low as the FA and the Ministry fracas is still hanging in the air with the Brazil 2014 debacle leaving a big scar in the minds of football lovers in the country.
It is an epic and crucial encounter for both countries as Ghana seeks to make a fourth consecutive World Cup appearance whiles Egypt has been absence from the competition since Italy 1990, 26 years now.