When firebrand former Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic was appointed in February 2020, he said something bizarre for a man with a new job.
By Lawrence Mangenje
He was quoted in the Ghanaian press categorically stating less than a week after his appointment, that Ghana will win Group G of World Cup qualifiers ahead of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.
The former Sudan coach cited the ‘quality’ and ‘experience’ the Black Stars have in this competition as the reasons to believe they will top the qualification group.
His words were met with stiff criticism within the local football fraternity, with some fans rightly arguing that the coach lacked confidence in his team and was not instilling that dare to dream, fighting and believing mindset among both the players and supporters of the national team.
He then shifted goalposts and told Soccer24 days later, that his utterances were mind games to put weight off the shoulders of his players when they would begin the journey to Qatar.
Whether Logarusic meant what he said about Ghana’s pedigree or not, history will simply state that when he was sacked for a string of poor results in September 2021, the same Ghana he was speaking glowingly of, also sacked head coach Charles Okonnor after the defeat to South Africa in Johannesburg.
Ghana scrapped past Ethiopia in the first game in Cape Coast last month and despite collecting three points courtesy of a 1-0 triumph, football stakeholders in the West African country were critical of the team’s performance nonetheless.
Interestingly, both Ghana and Zimbabwe, with new coaches Milovan Rajevac and Norman Mapeza respectively, do battle in a sink or swim double-header header next week.
The first match is on Saturday at the Cape Coast Stadium in Ghana, before the two sides clash at the National Sports Stadium three days later.
The question of everyone’s lips, with less than a week before battle lines drawn in Cape Coast is; can Mapeza’s Warriors get the job done and revive their World Cup qualifying campaign?
Qualification for the global showpiece has eluded this football-crazy nation for 41 years and defeats in both games next week will not even pave way for the over-used and somewhat meaningless cliché “so near and yet so far.”
These are the two games which are likely to decide whether or not qualification for the World Cup won’t be, just like for the past four decades, just a pipe-dream.
Historically though, Ghana have always had an upper-hand in the fixture, which justifies the Warriors’ underdog tag.
A well-oiled Ghana machine, on its way to the FIFA World Cup in 2006 in Germany, was stopped in its tracks by Charles Mhlauri’s Warriors at the AFCON finals in Egypt, when Cephas Chimedza and Benjani scored in a 2-1 victory. Regardless of how impressive and monumental that victory was, it is the only time i history, Zimbabwe has defeated the Black Stars.
The two sides first met in an international friendly in 1996, which ended in a 1-1 stalemate, before they met again a year later, on January 26 in AFCON qualifier, which ended goalless.
They met again in July 1997, in an AFCON qualifier, which the Black Stars triumphed at home 2-1.
Ghana thumped Zimbabwe in a AFCON qualifier in October 2000, 4-1 before beating them again at the National Sports Stadium in June 2001, 2-1.
Put simply, the Warriors have beaten Ghana only once in six meetings, that famous win at the AFCON finals in 2006, which was the last meeting between the two sides.
Can the Warriors defy the odds and get the job done?