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Sports News of Tuesday, 23 March 2021


South Africa eye famous victory over Ghana in 2021 AFCON qualifier

South Africa's Bafana Bafana South Africa's Bafana Bafana

South Africa will clash with rivals Ghana in their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier this week with both sides seeking to enhance their chances of qualifying for the tournament.

Bafana Bafana will host the Black Stars at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Thursday as the continental giants eye their places at the competition to be held in Cameroon next year with many sites like tipping the home to victory because of the absence of several top Ghana stars.

Apart from the points at stake, the two countries will also be fighting to edge each other over the record of the matches between the two nations since they are currently tied with the head-to-head record.

The two sides have played each other 13 times and have each won four times each while playing out to a draw in five matches.

The winner of Thursday’s match will hold the record so far for which side has won most matches but crucially they will be chasing the points to help them qualify for the Cameroon competition.

However, the match has been overshadowed by the forced absence of several players plying their trade in Europe because of the stringent Covid 19 rules in most Europeans countries.

Clubs in the top leagues of Europe are refusing to release their African players to their countries for the upcoming international break if they were forced to leave Europe.

That position has been enforced because of the huge infection rates among African players during November’s AFCON qualifiers, forcing them to miss matches for their clubs.

The clubs have reached the decision because players returning from international duty from non-European countries face long period of absence from the field before they can play for their clubs again.

Players would be required to undergo seven-day quarantine period by European governments once they returned to Europe due to fears of coronavirus transmission abroad.

While players from clubs in England, Germany and Spain have had varied release conditions for players, clubs of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 have unanimously decided not to release their players which has affected both South Africa and Ghana.

“In the absence of an exemption for foreign international players made available to their national team, and in view of the response times imposed by international regulations, the clubs of Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 have decided to unanimously apply the FIFA circular of February 5, 2021 taking into account the many travel restrictions in the world,” the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) said in a statement.

“In this context, the clubs will not make available for selection the foreign players summoned for matches outside the EU / EEA zone during the next international period in March.”

As a result of the decision by the clubs in Europe, South Africa will be missing their France-based goalkeeper Keagan Dolly who plays for Montpellier.

Some other players will also not be available for coach Molefi Ntseki for the match against the Black Stars with Bongani Zungu (Rangers‚ Scotland)‚ Dean Furman (Carlisle‚ England) and Abu Dhabi-based Thulani Serero all not available.

Ghana coach Charles Akonnor is facing a far worse situation with all their players playing their trade in England, France, Germany and Spain have all been excluded from the match against South Africa.

Captain Andre Ayew of Swansea City, his brother Jordan of Crystal Palace and his club team-mate Jeffrey Schlupp as well as Arsenal’s Thomas Partey will all not be available for the Black Stars.

The huge contingent of players from Spain, Germany and France are all also not available for Ghana in the match that could help them seal qualification for the tournament in Cameroon.

The top players have been replaced by several stars from the domestic league while others on the periphery of the main team have also been given the opportunity.

Among those getting the chance are the Italy-born duo of Caleb Ekuban of Turkish side Trabzonspor alongside Italian Serie A player Emmanuel Gyasi of Spezia who is chasing his debut along with Osman Bukari of Belgian club Gent.

Twelve players were called from the domestic league led by six players from giants Asante Kotoko as well as others from Dreams FC, Medeama and Legon Cities.

But there are still other experienced foreign-based players including the China-based duo of Mubarak Wakaso and Emmanuel Boateng as well as Ajax Amsterdam star Mohammed Kudus who can cause havoc for Bafana Bafana at home.

Ghana are the top of Group C with nine points after four matches and a victory will seal their place at the competition that will be played next year after being delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.