Friday, August 29, 2008

KOTOKO TO SAVE CAMPAIGN...Merreikh can be dangerous (GRAPHIC SPORTS, LEAD STORY)

El-Merreikh are predicting a shocker for Kumasi Asante Kotoko when the two sides cross swords in a group game of the CAF Confederation Cup at the Baba Yara Stadium on Sunday.
Since they arrived in Kumasi last Tuesday, vociferous officials and players of the Sudanese side have never hidden their desire to match Kotoko for skills, power, commitment and finesse in the match, the intensity of which is expected to be high.
Their Nigerian import, Obinna, echoed the strong feeling of his side when he said even though Kotoko are a respected side in Africa, the Ghanaian champions are not the side to stop them in their tracks.
The confidence of the Sudanese side may have been buoyed by Kotoko's 2-1 loss to Liberty Professionals in last Wednesday night's Glo Top 4 match, especially coming just four days to the top clash in Kumasi.
But El-Merrick will be making a huge mistake, for they cannot expect Kotoko to play into their hands when there is more at stake for the Ghanaian champions.
The combatants carry interesting statistics in the championship. While Kotoko have won all their home matches, El-Merrick are yet to taste a defeat both at home and away, and this points to a grudge battle.
Any slip by Kotoko will consign them into the abyss and cut short their dream for a successful season.
A charge by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, to go into battle and win, as well as the desire to make a name for themselves, their club and nation, should be enough to push Kotoko to strike gold.
The Porcupine Warriors have the proven ability to win at their fortress in Kumasi and, perhaps, El-Merrick will be daydreaming.
It has been a long period of 35 years since the two sides last met in Kumasi. That was in an Africa Clubs Championship match in 1973, which Kotoko won 3-0.
Before this they had clashed once in Kumasi in 1971, again in a continental club match, with Kotoko winning 1-0.
With history behind them Kotoko appear poised to maintain the status quo and project themselves as one of the strong contenders for the ultimate.
Gradually, supporters' attention has focused on the match and indications are that a capacity crowd will turn up in the stands to cheer the team to not just a victory, but a good score line that will convince everyone of the team's capabilities.
With the head-to-head system prevailing in the championship, good wins and not just slim victories are very crucial here.
The team quickly regrouped after the match against Liberty Professionals and reports that team spirit is very high is a good sign of their preparedness.
Coach Bashir Hayford has had his own troubles with management and as he comes out of the brushes, his task is to come out with a team that is hungry to deliver.
He will have the opportunity of having his captain, Emmanuel Osei Kuffour, back after a two-match ban. Kuffour's presence will oil the attack where much will be expected from the deadly Eric Bekoe.
The middle department of the team will still need the experience of Stephen Oduro despite supposed question marks about his stamina.
For the defence, Inkoom, George Asare, Ofosu Appiah and Osei Kwame Jnr is rock solid and with the agility of Burkinabe international keeper, Soulama Abdoulaye, in great shape, expect Kotoko to come out clean.

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