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WAFU Cup: Nigeria, Ghana rivalry raises stakes for Thursday’s game

The legendary rivalry between West African giants Nigeria and Ghana has considerably increased the stock for Thursday’s WAFU Cup of Nations encounter between both nations in Cape Coast.

Admitting this much in Takoradi on Tuesday was Head Coach Salisu Yusuf, who assured that his boys will throw everything into Thursday’s clash taking place at the same Cape Coast Stadium where they turned back Sierra Leone 2-0 on Monday.

Goals by wing back Osas Okoro and forward Peter Eneji earned the Super Eagles a win in the knock –out encounter against the Leone Stars, and Yusuf said his charges would prepare even harder for the group phase battle with the Black Stars.

“When you talk about a football match between Nigeria and Ghana, it is at a different level. Whether it is a Cup final or a friendly match, both teams give their very best. That is what we are going to do on Thursday, and I am sure the Ghanaians will come to the party with the same mind.

“The victory over Sierra Leone was good for the team. Psychologically, we are now attuned to going all out in every game as we aim to go all the way.”

It is 66 years now that Nigeria and Ghana first clashed in a football match at national team level, with the Nigerians running away 5-0 winners over the Gold Coast in a Jalco Cup match in Lagos on 20th October 1951.

Incidentally, the WAFU Cup fixtures have lined up the opposition for Nigeria as it was in the beginning. The first –ever match by a team assembled as Nigeria national team was against a Sierra Leonean national team, and it ended 2-0 in favour of Nigeria in Freetown on 8th October 1949. The clash with Ghana in October 1951 was Nigeria’s second –ever international.

On Thursday, both countries will go at each other with their very best.

In the early days of the rivalry, Nigeria won more matches in the Jalco Cup, but Ghana had the upper hand in the Nkrumah Cup and Zik Cup encounters that followed, both trophies named after major pan-African figures Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.

Among the most memorable encounters between Nigeria and Ghana in those 66 years were a 2-2 draw in a 1962 World Cup qualifying match in Lagos in September 1960 (Ghana had won the first leg 4-1 in Accra); a 2-2 draw in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Accra in April 1961 (the first leg in Lagos ended 0-0); a 2-1 win for Nigeria in a 1970 World Cup qualifier in Ibadan in May 1969 (the return in Accra ended 1-1); a 4-2 win for Nigeria in the 2nd All-Africa Games football tournament opener in Lagos in January 1973; a 3-2 win for Ghana in a World Cup qualifier in Lagos in February 1973 (match was abandoned and later awarded 2-0 to Ghana); a 1-1 draw in a 1978 Africa Cup of Nations match in Accra: a 2-1 win for Nigeria in a 1984 Olympics qualifier in Accra on October 1983; a 2-1 win for Nigeria in a 1984 Cup of Nations match in Bouake; a 1-0 win for Ghana in a 1992 Cup of Nations qualifier in Accra in September 1990 and; a 3-0 win for Nigeria in a 2002 World Cup qualifier in Port Harcourt in July 2001 that qualified Nigeria for the Korea/Japan finals.

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