On this day, 29 July 2001 (Exactly 18 years ago today ), Nigeria defeated visiting Ghana 3-0 to qualify for the 2002 FIFA World Cup tournament staged in Japan and South Korea.
Tijani Babangida added two first-half goals to Victor Agali’s second-minute strike, moving Nigeria one point above Liberia at the top of African qualifying’s Group B. If Nigeria had drawn or lost, Liberia would have advanced.
Ghana’s goalkeeper Osei Boateng was sent off at a time the Black Stars had exhausted all their three substitutions and left an outfield player in Emmanuel Osei Kuffour with no option than to guard the post in the early minutes.
Nigeria became the eighth team to secure qualification for the 32-team tournament, joining fellow African group winners Cameroon, Tunisia, South Africa and Senegal, co-hosts Japan and South Korea and holder France
Aftermath – Ghana Sold the match!
George Opong Weah did not shed tears openly but he came very close. As Nigeria’s victory over Ghana completely drowned his dream of a first World Cup appearance, and in an apparent escape from the trauma, Weah found a sense of relief in alleging a pre-arranged game.
Speaking in New York to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the Liberian team motivator, sponsor and coach/ spokesman said:
“I am very disappointed that Ghana’s defeat had ruined our aim. The only thing I can say now is that there was a struggle and we did very well and our best to qualify.”
According to him, from the outset, he knew there was going to be a bargain between Nigeria and Ghana in order to edge Liberia out, adding that the boast of Ghana to beat Nigeria was mere propaganda.
Weah alleged that the Black Stars allowed the three goals just to scuttle his chances of appearing in the World Cup to be co-hosted by Japan and South Korea following year.
“You heard from the reporter that Ghana didn’t put up any fight. Their hope is out of the World Cup, but they just went to Nigeria for the sake of it and I knew Ghana was only going to do such thing. For me, I had no hope because I knew Ghana was only going to Nigeria to have some fun.”
On why he was blaming Ghana for his failure not to qualify for the World Cup, Weah said:
“I am not blaming Ghana for it because from the beginning I knew they are a weak team to qualify for the World Cup.
“I spoke to Taribo, he told me they were going to qualify …. They went to World Cup before, and deserve it because they play very hard and coming behind the table to the top shows how superior they are. Nigerians have a very great team but Liberia is a very little team”.
Weah lamented that Liberia’s failure was the loss at home in the hands of Ghana, adding that Liberia would always stage a comeback for the mundial game.
“We came so close, but the Liberian players must be responsible for what happened. I think they are regretting that now. The Liberian people did everything for the team to qualify, I must commend them. We tried because nobody expected us to go that far .”
On this day, 29 July 2004 (Exactly 15 years ago), The Confederation of African Football (CAF) appointed Dr Nyaho Nyaho-Tamakloe, then Chairman of the Ghana Football Association, (GFA) into the Ethics and Fair play Committee of the Confederation.
On this day, 29 July 2005 (Exactly 14 years ago today ), Aziz Zakari of Ghana won the 100m in 10.02sec from Marc Burns of Trinidad and Tobago in 10.07sec at the Bislett Games in Oslo, in the final meeting before the Helsinki World Athletics
Championships. Amercian Tyson Gay was third in 10.15sec.
On this day, 29 July 1957 (Exactly 62 years ago), Floyd Patterson TKO Tommy Jackson in round 10 for heavyweight boxing title.
STORIES: GEORGE MAHAMAH