COMMENT By Prince Narkortu Teye Follow on Twitter
While Ghana’s fate is ultimately out of their own hands in their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, the Black Stars will be desperate to take control of their own affairs and answer their critics when they face Uganda on Saturday.
In the previous qualifier between the two sides-back in Tamale in October, the Black Stars were held to a 0-0 draw as their campaign got off to a stuttering start. It was a portenteous outing, considering the tribulations to have followed.
A 2-0 away reversal to main contenders Egypt meant the Stars, then under Avram Grant, had shirked five points. The Pharaohs, on the other hand, picked up everything in sight and sat five points clear atop the table. The difficulty ahead for the Stars, if it wasn’t clear after the Uganda set-back, became apparent.
There was an uphill task on the horizon.
The narrative looked dire, but there was hope Ghana would waltz over bottom-placed Congo, who could not get even one point to save their lives during the most recent internaitonal break.
Ultimately, there was another disappointment, even more gloomy, as the Red Devils held their own to pull off a 1-1 draw in Kumasi.
This second stalemate was hard to take, considering Uganda struck an upset against Egypt by winning 1-0 in Kampala, drawing Ghana back into the race.
In the return leg in Brazzaville four days later, the Black Stars did what they should have done at home, hitting the Red Devils for five on matchday four, but it was little too late as the Kumasi disappointment meant they no longer had their destiny in their own hands.
With Egypt’s 1-0 win over Uganda in the return fixture, the Pharaohs moved back on top, two points clear of the Cranes, and four ahead of third-placed Ghana on five as we head into the penultimate matchday.
Egypt host whipping boys Congo on Sunday, where a win would crush any remaining chance Ghana may have of making Russia 2018.
However, to be in position to exploit any possible Egyptian fall, Kwesi Appiah must motivate Ghana to pick up full points at the intimidating Mandela National Stadium in Kampala, in the hope that the Red Devils can do them a favour.
The Black Stars have a habit of rising to the occasion when up against it; a 2-0 away victory over South Africa in 2006 World Cup qualifying is one such feat in recent times, while the triumph over the Czech Republic at the 2006 World Cup and the away victory over Mali in 2010 World Cup qualifying also come to mind.
Admittedly, the current situation is one of the worst they have seen and will ever face in World Cup qualifying.
However, while there is still hope, the prospect of a fourth consecutive World Cup appearance is a dream that Ghana fans will cling to.
Beat Uganda on Saturday, and the dream will stay alive...at least for one day more.