By Jacob Ajom
After the opening fireworks ignited by national teams from Nigeria, Republic of Benin, Senegal and Guinea at the MKO Abiola stadium, Abeokuta yesterday, attention will today shift to the Gateway International Stadium, Ijebu Ode where the Black Stars of Ghana will open their account in the first WAFU Nations Cup with a cracker against the Hawks of Togo.
The tie, which has been rightly dubbed the battle of the titans, will bring back the growing rivalry between these two neighbourly countries.
In truth, Ghanaâ€™s pedigree in African and world soccer scenes looms large and the country which is blessed with enormous reservoir of talented youngsters has achieved relative success compared to itâ€™s tiny neighbour.
Although the country had witnessed some poor patches in her soccer history, its present status as holders of the FIFA U-20 World Cup puts her poles apart as the trophy was won in Egypt last year with a predominantly home-based team. Most of those who prosecuted the World Cup will be on parade today in Ijebu Ode against Togo.
That is not dismissing the chances of the Hawks against their more illustrious neighbours who have shown tremendous capacity for progress in recent years.
It was Togo, alongside Ghana, Angola, South Africa and Tunisia that represented Africa at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. That was the year Nigeriaâ€™s Stephen Keshi midwifed a hugely unknown Togolese squad to qualify for the Mundial. Although Keshi was not on the train to Germany, the Hawks did not perform too badly.
The team qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola but the unfortunate gun attack on them in Cabinda forced them to return to Lome. All that is history now and the Togolese are bent on showing the world what they would have done if they were allowed to return to the Nations Cup in January.