Ghana and South African national coaches might as well have broken into the rendition of the old school Staple Singers ditty: “Let’s do it again” in faraway Cairo this week when the FIFA 2022 World Cup draw was conducted.
When the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Director of competitions Samson Adamu pulled out the balls from their pots, South Africa found themselves paired with the Ghana Black Stars in Group G.
It should be remembered that the two countries have also been paired in the 2021 African Nations Cup qualifiers for Cameroon and Ghana have already given Bafana Bafana a black eye, handing them a 2-0 victory in the Cape Coast in late November.
Reacting to the draw which the Ghanaians described as a “kind draw” which they considered “easy,” South African coach Molefi Ntseki said to qualify for the World Cup finals in Qatar, they had to end the campaign among the group winners.
“The first stage is to finish the qualifying programme on top,” said Ntseki. “Then work your way in the play-offs to end up among the last five that will represent Africa in Qatar,” he added.
The Black Stars would be guided by newly appointed Charles Akunnor who has taken over from Kwesi Appiah, whose contract was not renewed by the new administration that has taken over the running of Ghanaian football following recent elections.
“It’s very important to respect all the teams in our group,” said Akunnor in a post-match interview in Cairo. “What I can say is that we will put in the hard work. We will work harder this time around because we know that all the teams wishing to qualify put in the hard work,” added Akunnor who is certainly mindful of the fact that Ghana failed to qualify for Russia 2018.
“I must stress though,” said Bafana Bafana coach Ntseki, “every draw is tough. Expectations are that all 40 teams that qualified for this stage fully deserve to be here. We are fully aware of the quality of the Ghanaian team as well as the Ethiopians and Zimbabweans.
“We are mindful of the fact that Ethiopia did extremely well to overcome Lesotho while Zimbabwe were fully stretched before eventually defeating Sudan with Khama Billiat scoring their winning goal.
“We will give our opponents all the respect they deserve. But we are also confident that we can do well in this group and look forward to the start of the qualifiers.”
When asked about the fact that the bulk of Zimbabwean players who are plying their trade in South Africa and giving them an advantage, Ntseki said South Africa also have an advantage as they would be able to thoroughly profile the Zimbabwe players.
“It’s all about the fixtures,” said Ntseki. “I don’t think it’s a good or bad thing to have drawn Ghana again. I think they know about our qualities as much as we also know about their qualities. We know what to expect from them.
“They are under a new coach (Akunnor) and I think the players would be out to impress the new coach. We would be playing three matches against them – one in the AFCON and two in the WC – and I think they would be interesting clashes.”
When reminded that Bafana Bafana capitulated against Ethiopia in qualification for the AFCON when Gordon Igesund was in charge, Ntseki said the SA national team is now composed of a different playing personnel as well as technical staff.
The road to Qatar in Africa will get underway in November at the end of qualification for AFCON 2021 during October.