Ghana may not have become Africa’s best bet for the 2022 World Cup overnight – this 1xbit sports sign-up offer is probably better spent on backing Senegal or better yet, betting on Germany – but they have lived up to their status as a team you can never count out.
Indeed, Ghana chose the opportune moment to put their resilience on full display and defeat arch-rivals Nigeria via away goals in a mouth-watering 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying play-off.
The Black Stars had all to play for at the MKO Abiola Stadium on Tuesday after an uneventful ‘nil-nil’ draw in the first leg in Kumasi last week.
Following a dreadful 2021 Africa Cup of Nations campaign and an underwhelming run of form preceding the encounter, the Ghanaians headed to Nigeria as betting outsiders.
However, Arsenal star midfielder Thomas Partey made sure to get Otto Addo's side off to a flying start in Abuja, breaking the deadlock only five minutes into the game.
Much of the blame for Ghana's opening goal has to be pinned on Nigeria goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, who failed to thwart Partey's mediocre attempt from outside the box.
But the host nation replied swiftly through Watford defender William Trost-Ekong, who converted the spot-kick earned by Leicester City's Ademola Lookman.
Augustine Eguavoen's men thought they turned things around in the 34th minute as Victor Osimhen dribbled past Jojo Wollacott and slotted the ball into the empty net.
Nigeria's celebrations were short-lived, though. The Video Assistant Referee ruled out the goal for an offside in the build-up play, leaving the in-demand Napoli striker fuming.
Ghana kept things tight at the back for the remainder of the match, preventing the Super Eagles from finding an all-important second goal to secure their fourth appearance at the global showpiece.
How did Ghana perform in their three previous World Cup appearances?
Ghana's first-ever taste of World Cup action dates back to 'Germany 2006,' where they made it out of the group phase before bowing out to star-studded Brazil in the first knock-out round.
The Black Stars bettered their inaugural World Cup result in 2010, as they reached the quarter-finals in South Africa, only to lose to Uruguay in one of the most controversial matches at the tournament.
Ghana's most recent appearance at the showpiece event went terribly wrong, with James Kwesi Appiah's team finishing bottom of their group at 'Brazil 2014.'
Tumultuous times, but Addo has enough time to prepare Ghana for Qatar
If Ghana are to avoid another humiliation at major international tournaments after the 2021 AFCON fiasco, they will have to work their socks off in the upcoming warm-up campaign.
Former head coach Milovan Rajevac paid the ultimate price for the Black Stars' 2021 AFCON group-stage exit, opening the door for Addo's takeover.
The relatively inexperienced manager relied on his charisma and ever-present desire to make his nation proud to turn Ghana’s fortunes around on short notice.
But despite squeezing past Nigeria, Ghana have now failed to win their six international fixtures in 2022, drawing three while losing the remaining ones.
A lack of firepower up front has seen the Ghanaians score one goal or less in eight of their last nine internationals.
Interim boss Addo can ill-afford to ignore the elephant in the room any longer after gaining broad plaudits for qualifying Ghana for winter's showpiece event.
Borussia Dortmund took to social media to praise their assistant coach for helping the Black Stars defy the odds against Nigeria.
"Congrats to Otto Addo and the @GhanaBlackstars on qualifying for the World Cup! A true Ghanaian legend!" BVB wrote on their .— (@BlackYellow) Twitter account.">
Addo's stunning success could earn him a permanent gig at the Ghana national team.
With eight months left before the 'Qatar 2022' kick-off, the 46-year-old should have plenty of time to fine-tune his side.