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Beyond Soccer: Top 5 most exciting African football rivalries

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The 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifying two-legged playoff between Ghana and Nigeria is considered by many as one of the biggest rivalries in African football, and this is by no means a fact.

Over the years, the two countries have had one of the fiercest footballing battles on the continent at all levels, with such matches often dubbed “fights to finish.”

The two countries’ first official meeting was a World Cup qualifier in 1960, where Ghana defeated the Super Eagles 4-1 at the Accra Sports Stadium, and since then, they have been locked in decades-long rivalry which many see as one of the best in African football history.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria have won three AFCON championships to the Ghana Black Stars’ four, but the last of their triumph came in 1982 and between then and now, Nigeria has won two in 1994 abd 2013.

Their head-to-head records have also been very tight, with Ghana winning 19 times to Nigeria’s 16.

The first leg of the playoff will take place on Friday, March 25, at the 40,000-capacity Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi, with the second and final game taking place on March 29 at the 60,000-capacity Abuja National Stadium.

But beyond the Nigeria vs Ghana rivalry, there are other of such exciting and fierce battles involving other countries on the African continent which soccer fans always look forward to.

Here are the top five most exciting African football rivalries.

1. Nigeria vs Ghana

The rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana is one of the fiercest and most exciting at all levels.

From the senior national team level to the lowest cadre, including female teams and club football, this is one rivalry many football fans look forward to and the World Cup qualifiers on March 25 will not be an exception.

The footballing rivalries between the two countries have been taken beyond soccer as the two countries and their citizens have taken it upon themselves to try and outdo each other in others spheres of life, including business and other socioeconomic endeavours.

With the two countries parading an array of stars like Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze, William Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun, Moses Simon (Nigeria) and Thomas Partey, Jordan Ayew, Baba Rahman, etc for Ghana, the rivalry will not come to an end soon.

2. Algeria vs Egypt

Unortunately, Algeria and Egypt have been spared the joy and agony of facing each other in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, but clashes between the two countries have always been feisty and gutsy, filled with underlying passion.

Any encounter between Algeria and Egypt has become one of the most infamous rivalries in the history of football as clashes between the two Northern African giants is entrenched in deep roots.

It all began with Algeria’s resentment over Egypt’s refusal to play a team that was spreading awareness about Algeria’s struggle for independence to the 1989 incident where an Egyptian team doctor lost an eye from a bottle thrown by an Algerian player.

Since then, any matchup between the two countries often leads to clashes between the fans, making it one of the fiercest and ugliest rivalries in African football.

Egypt may hold the record as the most successful team as far as AFCON is converned, but against its eternal rivals, they only boast a miserable record having won only 2 and lost 5 of their previous 9 clashes.

Their most recent of such clashes, however, was a 4-0 thrashing of Algeria by Egypt on their way to winning its 7th AFCON title in 2019.

3 Ghana vs Ivory Coast

Another very exciting African football rivalry fans eagerly look forward is that between West African neighbours, Ghana and Ivory Coast.

The two countries are, unarguably, powerhouses when it comes to African football, and their clashes over the years have been quite gritty, reminiscent of clashes between Nigeria and Ghana.

They have been glamorous affairs and a matter of prestige as the players would do everything possible to win.

Out of a total of 14 clashes in the Cup of Nations, Ivory Coast hold the advantage in this rivalry with 8 wins, with Ghana only managing to get 5 wins and 1 draw.

Ghana has failed to beat Ivory Coast in six meetings, including the final of the 1992 Nations Cup which they lost 11- 10 on penalties.

Their most recent clash was at the AFCON tournament in 2015, with Ivory Coast repeating the ’92 feat, beating Ghana 9-8 on penalties again.

4. Nigeria vs Cameroon

The footballing rivalry beyween Nigeria and Cameroon has always been one where the players give their all, including sweat and blood, and are ready to die on the pitch rather than experience defeat.

Over the years, Nigeria and Cameroon have had some memorable clashes both in the Nations Cup, World Cup qualifying matches and even in friendlies.

The first time the two countries met at the Nations Cup final tournament was in the 1984 edition and Cameroon had a certain Roger Milla in their line-up.

But while Milla didn’t score in the match, he was instrumental to Cameroon claiming their first title with a 3 – 1 win over the Super Eagles.

Nigeria’s misfortune against Cameroon was to continue over the years and in their next meeting in the 1988 finals of the tournament, the Indomitable Lions pipped the Eagles 1 – 0 to win their second title.

Their clash in the bronze medal match in 1992 served as some consolation for Nigeria as they beat Cameroon to pick third place but in the finals of the 2000 edition held in Nigeria, Cameroon, this time with a certain Samuel Eto’o, defeated Nigeria 4-3 on penalties after a 2 – 2 draw, to claim their third trophy, again at the expense of the Super Eagles.

No wonder any meeting between the two countries is always seen by fans as one to look forward to.

5. Ivory Coast vs Senegal

Another exciting African football rivalry has always been the matchup between Ivory Coast and Senegal.

The two countries have met at both the AFCON and World Cup qualifying matches on four occasions which have always turned into a tense moment.

Their first meeting was in 1965 and most recently in 2012, and the rivalry has been nothing short of healthy and enjoyed thoroughly by fans.

The storyline of those meetings were mostly built on expectations for Ivory Coast to maintain their dominance as a footballing powerhouse, with Senegal making breakthroughs whenever they could.

But in recent years, the Teranga Lions have been on the upward climb and any meeting between them and their eternal rivals is one that would bring the fans on the edge of their seats as was witnessed at the last AFCON where Senegal beat Ivory Coast on their way to the trophy.

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Three foreign-born players switch allegiance to Ghana: Can the trio help the Black Stars go far in Qatar?

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Three foreign-born footballers, Tariq Lamptey of Brighton & Hove Albion, Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu as well as Inaki Williams of Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish La Liga, have all switched allegiance to Ghana and are eligible to play for the Black Stars in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The Europe-based trio are now eligible to represent the four-time African champions at senior level after initially shunning earlier invitations to play for the country, while holding out for invitations to the national teams of their birth countries.

While Lamptey and Salisu had hoped for call ups into the English national team setup, Williams had looked forward to moving from the Spanish Under 21 to the senior national team but with their chances being limited by the day, they have all decided to return to the country of their parents.

The switch of allegiance by the trio was confirmed by the President of the Ghana Football Association, Kurt Edwin Simeon-Okraku, via a post on Twitter on Tuesday night.

“Tariq Lamptey, Inaki Williams, Mohammed Salisu, Stephan Ambrosius, Patrick Pfeffer and Ransford Yeboah [are] available for national selection,” Simeon-Okraku wrote on the micro-blogging platform.

28-year-old Williams had represented Spain at U21 level before playing for their senior national team in a 3-1 friendly defeat of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016, but since then, has not had a look in from the Spanish team selectors.

Salisu was born in Kumasi but left for Europe, first to Spain where he played for Real Valladolid before switching to Premier League side Southampton.

He had previously rejected invitations to star for the Black Stars while hoping to get a call up by either Spain or England while Lamptey who was born in Hillingdon to Ghanaian parents has played for England at U18, U19, U20 and U21 levels but his chances with the Three Lions has been blocked by the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James.

Though the development is a big boost for the Black Stars ahead of the 2022 World Cup, the big question on the lips of soccer fans in the West African country is what the trio will bring to the Black Stars when the best footballing nations gather in Qatar for the World Cup in November.

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CAF postpones 2023 Afcon to January 2024 due to weather concerns

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The Confederation of African Football (CAF), has postponed the 34th edition of the African Nations Cup (AFCON), which was scheduled to hold between June to July of 2023 in Ivory Coast, to January and February, 2024.

The reason for the postponement, according to CAF President, Patrice Motsepe, is due to concerns over weather conditions in the West African country which experiences heavy rainfall during the period.

While addressing the CAF Executive Committee meeting in Rabat, Morocco, on Sunday, Motsepe said the decision was also to align the continent with the European football calendars.

Motsepe also said the decision was further motivated by weather concerns following a report by the Ivorian Meteorological Agency which predicted heavy rainfall in many parts of the country designated for the tournament.

The agency, in a report presented to CAF, had noted that Ivory Coast which has a tropical climate, has the peak of its rain season between June and July and most parts of the country is always at the height of the rainy season.

This is the second time the AFCON will be rescheduled at the beginning of the year since it was moved from January/February to June/July by former CAF President Ahmad Ahmad.

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