Ghana defeated Nigeria in a friendly in London last week.
Below are some excerpts from Paul Doyle's excellent match report which featured in the Guardian on Feb 7th. The Other Football will be following Ghana closey in the 2008 African Nations Cup
This article really should be written by The Guy from Ghanaian Radio (TGGR). Because last night he was awesome. Never did catch his name, but only because breaking his commentary to ask him would have been a crime against passion. "Fifteen years! Fifteen years! Ladies and gentlemen it has been 15 painful years since Ghana beat Nigeria!" he hollered in a tone that made it clear he considered this to be a national scandal. "I'm telling you, tonight must be different." And it was.
Kick-off was delayed by 35 minutes to allow roughly 6,000 ticketholders to pass through the turnstiles and hundreds of non-ticket-holders to try to blag their way past Griffin Park's exasperated security staff. "I've had four Nigerian sports ministers, 10 ambassadors, about 40 FA chiefs and fuck knows how many players' brothers, wives and grannies," claimed one gatekeeper who was clearly out of his depth. Still, the delay at least gave the Nigerian team time to turn up and get stripped, their bus finally meandering through the throngs to deposit the players in front of the dressing room a mere 10 minutes before the game was supposed to start.
"Here they are! Yes, here they are, the Black Stars of Ghana and the Super Eagles of Nigeria!" hollered TGGR as the squads strode on to the pitch to ear-bursting acclaim. The teams lined up facing the crowd - probably for the anthems, rather than to entice scores of admirers into sprinting onto the pitch to hug their heroes, run around in circles and generally cavort in a way that made the anger of the red-faced stewards attempting to catch them all the more amusing.
Intense, throbbing and exhilarating, the atmosphere was a cheeky joke reaching its climax, and the players delivered a magnificently drawn-out punchline. They crunched into each other from the start, and passed, feinted, flicked and shot with spellbinding speed, power and finesse. If all friendlies were played at such a rarefied height, England v Spain would be worth watching tonight.
That neither side was treating the match as meaningless was clear from the cut-throat attacking and crunching tackling, all of which kept the crowd in convulsions. Ten minutes in, the ref even had to give George Abbey a stern talking-to for chopping down the galloping baobab that is Michael Essien. The crowd howled, TGGR condemned "a criminal offence" and Essien hobbled off for treatment.
With time and space, Nigeria's John Obi Mikel was a visionary, spraying balls out right to John Utaka and left to Peter Odemwingie, or slipping neat, short passes through to Stephen Ayodele Makinwa in the middle, though the latter departed after the half-hour mark, a victim of one of the many ferocious but fair tackles that were flying in with thrilling regularity, though not for the mangers, both of whom were at times restrained by the fourth official.
Asamoah Gyan latched on to a long punt but shot weakly at the keeper; Odemwingie fired just wide after a snappy build-up; and then the returned Essien brought the house down by feigning to hoof the ball clear on the edge of his own box only to cheekily nutmeg Mikel - "That's MISTER Michael Essien to you, Mikel," whooped TGGR. Then Essien clattered into an opponent right in front of the Nigerian fans. "Ghana must go, Ghana must go!" roared the mob in green and white, repeating a pidgin slogan that dates back to a sorry spell in the 1970s when Nigerians chased many Ghanaians out of their country during a xenophobic downturn. "They say it jokingly now but behind their smiles it's semi-serious," explained a Ghanaian in between shouts of "shhhhhhhhhutttttttttttuuuuupp".
Ghana were gaining the upperhand on the pitch, Essien marauding now at will and the wonderful Stephen Appiah turning and twisting past opponents again, just like he did last summer. Sulley Muntari was roving across the frontline wrecking havoc as he went and on the right, Laryea Kingston was somehow managing to upstage them all with more runs and tricks than Cristiano Ronaldo could shake a lollipop at. Forty-four minutes in, Appiah and Essien one-twoed their way through the centre before releasing Gyan, who let fire from the edge of the box; his shot was blocked and just as it rebounded to him the ref blew for half-time. "What!?!!" spluttered an outraged TGGR, "I've been a sports journalist for 20 years and never - never ever - have I seen anything so scandalous! I tell you, if this means Michael Essien isn't going to be named African Football of the Year on March 1, then I will be very, very angry." And lo, he had the theme for his half-time rant.
The Nigerians started the second half as if they thought it would be a breeze: they were blown away. In the 49th minute, the ever-artful Appiah sent Gyan scampering down the right; his cross triggered panic and when the ball broke to Kingston at the edge of the area, he walloped a low drive into the back of the net. Ghanian fans erupted, dozens spilled over on to the pitch. Amid the tumult: tumbles! And cartwheels and handstands. And lewd jigs that seemed incongruous in London's frigid February chill. And were all the more welcome for it.
After giving pitch invasion a good name, the revellers lolloped off - only to return two minutes later when Muntari thundered a left-footer into the top corner to double Ghana's lead. "More than 15 years! More than 15 years!" gasped TGGR. "It will be more than 15 years before they beat us again!" Eight minutes later the brilliant loolaas were on the pitch again as Nottingham Forest's Junior Agogo declaring the circus open by volleying home a Gyan cross after another astute through-ball from Appiah. "The Black Stars of Ghana, oh-woah! The Black Stars of Ghana, oh-woah!" whooped TGGR before declaring his love for Agogo: "You may not have seen much of him but I mean it, I LOVE THIS GUY!!"
The Ghanaians were rapturous and Taye Taiwo's goal from the penalty spot couldn't alter their giddy minds. Especially as the Black Stars were by now openly mocking their adversaries, each man performing a little party piece before dinking the ball to a team-mate amid lusty olés from the faithful. "Football is not about energy, it's about sense," gushed an approving TGGR before oh-woahing anew.
At some stage during the Ghanaians' party, fans spotted Asamoah Primpong sliding in to snatch a fourth goal. "Four goals! Four goals! I tell you, it's four goals to one!" was virtually all TGGR told his listeners for the last 10 minutes. A commotion broke out in the VIP section as gloating Ghanaian fans attempted to photograph miserable Nigerian officials. Their taunts were plentiful but playful, the Nigerians' humiliation deep and total.
"I've never seen an African team do that to Nigeria before," sniffed shell-shocked Super Eagles manager Austin Eguavoen afterwards. "They stopped us playing from the rear and when we can't do that we get flustered. I have to congratulate Ghana, they were tactically and technically very, very strong." A fuming Nigerian journalist pointed out it that was the country's heaviest defeat since they lost to Denmark by the same score at France 98: he could only suggest that, surely, the Super Eagles simply hadn't taken this match seriously. "We took it very seriously," insisted Eguavoen. "I had agreed with Mikel that I would only play him for 60 minutes but there was no way I was going to take him off with us 3-0 down; and I had planned not to use Yakubu at all, but I couldn't leave him on the bench with what was happening."
Ghana host the African Cup of Nations next year and Claude Le Roy says anything less than victory will be failure. He's right: his young, gifted Black Stars are brilliant.