World Cup 2002 - African qualification

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the match facts and reports:
Group A
Group B
Group C
Group D
Group E
the complete schedule, results, tables

World Cup 2002 - African qualification
Group B  match facts + reports
Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Liberia, Ghana
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week1 June 16-18, 2000 
Nigeria cannot afford wasting points against Sierra Leone, they will be hunted by Ghana. But coach Bonfrere says players are not 100% fit and Sierra Leone has called up all professionals and looks ambitious

Sudan plays Liberia in a match unlikely to see a serious challenger for the two group giants
(Ghana idle)
Nigeria - Sierra Leone  2:0
1:0 ('16) Okocha 2:0('37) Akwuegbu,  att.:: 20,000
Sudan - Liberia  2:0

week2  July 8-9, 2000 
Ghanas chance lies in playing perfect against Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Sudan. But being perfect in matches against smaller powers had proved as a problem in the recent past. Ghana are clear favourites in this one anyway.

Nigeria with off pitch problems again face a difficult task in this group: Because of the constellation with two giants and three third row powers the outcome might depend on concentration in the 'small' matches as well as on luck in the direct encounter with Ghana. Losing points on the way could become costly.
Liberia - Nigeria 2:1 July 9
scorers: Liberia - Christopher Wreh 4, 47. 
Nigeria - Nwankwo Kanu 35. 
Halftime: 1-1; Attendance 15,000. 
Ghana - Sierra Leone 5:0 July 9 *the original schedule has been changed so that Ghana plays now at home and in the 7th week at Sierra Leone 
Scorers: Charles Asamoah* 13, 60, Charles Akunnor 67, Yaw Preko 75, Ishmael Addo 89. 
Halftime: 1-0; Attendance 45,000. 
* should rather be Amoah

week3  Jan 26-28, 2001 
The big West African race between Nigeria and Ghana was supposed to continue in Group B. Both sides had received their injections against complecancy but it had remained unclear whether there has been a curing effect: Nigeria already had lost 3 valuable points at Liberia. And Ghana, where some seemed to have thought a home win over trubled neighbours Sierra Leone would already mean qualification, had received severe warnings in the parallel Nations Cup qualifiers where they only managed 1 single away point from matches at Lesotho and DR Congo. Both West African giants were be expected to win their home matches this weekend. 
The more difficult task had been up for Ghana as there was still a dim hope flickering on the side of Liberia though George Weah's side had already blown 3 away points at Sudan. Sudan, Nigerias opponent, looked good in the table but were assessed no chance at all, judging from the recent Nations Cup games which had seen  them scoring zero goals in three matches.
Then came this Sunday that might have changed it all.
Liberia managed the big bang of the weekend, outplaying Ghana in the first half and scoring late by a penalty in the second to take 1:0 and 2:1 leads. They added a third goal and after a succession of good results are now definitively in the race. It seems as George Weah's big dream of leading his country to the World Cup, which had caused rather a sympathetic smile on the faces of so many experts than real belief, could become at least a realistic possibility. Player-coach Weah, first African to have been elected World Footballer of the year looks for what would become maybe the biggest upset in African Football history: qualifying troubled Liberia for a World Cup. Only a dream?
Nigeria - Sudan 3:0
detailed match report on extra page
Ghana - Liberia 1:3
 0:1('10) Seetor, 1:1('70) Duah, 1:2 ('85) Makor pen., 1:3('88) Shannon, att. 60,000?

week4  Feb 23-25, 2001 
Group B: There was big sign readable at the side of the road all four weeks long: 'Khartoum, big trap waiting for you to fall into'. How Ghana did and how reactions and analysis have been read in the report linked below (see After the match)
Meanwhile Liberia has taken the part as challengers to Nigeria. The team might not have as many talented players and experienced professionals as the group giants but they have something that lacks other teams: they have a vision (or rather a dream) and they have somebody who has the clear goal to make it real and who has no other interests (especially no financial) distracting him off that goal: George Weah. That the team is not that automatically strong proves the slim 1:0 victory over Sierra Leone which has cost the Liberians a possible disadvantage in goal difference. 
So Nigeria remain favorites of this group of no draws while their real strength yet remains unproved - the crucial away fixtures, especially at Ghana and Sudan should give the answer. 
Sudan - Ghana 1:0
detailed match report on extra page
Liberia - Sierra Leone 1:0
Roberts '65, att. 60,000

week5  Mar 9-11, 2001 
Sierra Leone - Sudan  0:2
0:1 ('43) James Joseph, 0:2 ('44) Khalid Bakit
Ghana - Nigeria  0:0
more infos on extra page

before week6
When Ghana has to watch this weekends matches from outside they will hope for a draw in the Liberia-Sudan match. So will the Nigerian Ex-Super Eagles who today are chasing two group leaders which have an aggregated 1 participation at the last 12 Nations Cup final tournaments (since 1978).
But the Nigerians are still very well in a position to qualify by their own powers. They seem to face a relatively easy task away to Sierra Leone who just have their periodic coach firing just behind them. But Sierra Leone is not that easy to step over at home as the table suggests and for the West Africans, without chance of qualification for neither the World Cup nor the Nations Cup, it should be a prestigious match.
Meanwhile the Nigerians have prepared for the match 'their way': the controversy between coach Bonfrere and the FA has broken entirely open and seems to lead to a scenario in which the conflict seem to have gained more importance than the match.
Liberia and Sudan might hope that this Nigerian constellation persists for longer. Sudan is a good but not an extraordinary team. They have the luck (or bad luck) that all their good results have fallen on this competition while all their goal scoring problems have been reduced to the parallel Nations Cup qualifiers. Normally a World Cup should be out of their reach but what is normal in this group? If they can surprise Liberia everything will be possible for some more time. In their away match at Nigeria they did do very well until the first Nigerian goal.
For Liberia it is a different story. With the points won so far they do have a relaistic chance and will certainly curse their failure in the first match at Sudan. But they will have to be alerted they do not waste the gained advantage in this difficult match against a well organised Sudanese team.
Back to Ghana: Just watching the other matches seems to have been too little attention for a big football power. Ghana might have been envious on their neighbours cabaret: new reports say they have just fired their coach Jones Attuquayefio in an argument over his double coaching role for club and country. As The Shot had suggested before: the general policy on who plays for the team and who not is also about a lot of money for a lot of people...

week6  Apr 20-22, 2001 

Liberia - Sudan  2:0
1:0 Kelvin Segbe ('38), 2:0 ('78) Weah
Sierra Leone - Nigeria 1:0
goal: Sidque Mansaray ('25) (other source says Kallon)
att. 40,000

At the moment the two teams who focus their limited powers on a valuable goal battle it out while the two antique giants have all their forces split trying to pull the wagon into different directions. Liberia with a clear vision have something like a joker game coming: at Nigeria they are not under pressure to win, but if they do they will kick out the Super Eagles. But - on the other hand - Nigeria is still not that far behind. If the result goes the other way, the pressure will be heavy on the outsiders. 

week7  May 4-6, 2001 

Nigeria - Liberia  2:0
Kanu ('10), Agali ('59)
Sierra Leone - Ghana  1:1
dailysoccer/Reuters reports: 0:1('26) Quam Ayew, 1:1('85 pen) Alpha Joh, att. 25,000

Ghana further damaged their still present chances by supposedly lacklustre preparations for the match at Sierra Leone and are left rather with theoretical scenarios, especially because all belief has been thrown aboard.
Nigeria meanwhile did the put up the expected fight against Liberia and maintained their perfect home record. 
Nigeria had fired coach Bonfrere in the week after the Sierra Leone match but the line up carried only a few changes. Their crunch match will come at Sudan: before they can profit from any possible Liberian mistake they will have to win at least one away match in this qualification.

Football in both, Ghana and Nigeria, is in turmoil with fractions fighting each other instead of focussing on a common goal. A scenario like in France where a coach has four years to build a success team is unthinkable here. For both coaches, Nigeria and Ghana, it has  been the first match this weekend, neglecting the fact, both have been temporarily in this function before. And both are thought to be only temporary solutions again this time. 

> more about the crisis in Nigeria and Ghana here

Liberia - Ghana  1:2
0:1 Amoah '33, 1:1 Sebwe '44, 1:2 Boakye '60
Sudan - Nigeria 0:4
detailed match report on extra page

week9  Jul 13-15, 2001 
Sierra Leone - Liberia  0:1
0:1 Weah '73
George Weah came on as a substitute to score the winner by a header and make elimination for Ghana formal, who now cannot catch up with the leaders anymore
Ghana - Sudan  1:0
One day later Ghana put an end to any left Sudanese dreams
(Emmanuel Kuffour '45)
Now it will all come down to the Nigeria - Ghana match:
If Nigeria win, they will go, otherwise Liberia will be qualified

week10  Jul 27-29, 2001

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