Football: Olympics a long way off as Ghana face Liberia

2015-04-24_bsp-03_188095Ghana begin Sunday a potentially long, difficult journey they hope will end at the 2016 Olympic Games football tournament in Brazil.

First up for the Black Meteors are Liberia in the initial of three
qualifying rounds for a December tournament that will determined which three African countries go to South America.

Having to enter a tournament at such an early stage is rare for a Ghanaian national team, but poor 2012 Olympic Games qualifying results did them no favours seeding-wise.

Congo Brazzaville await Ghana or Liberia in the second round and whoever from the trio makes the next stage must confront former gold medalists Nigeria.

Should Ghana survive all that, they will still be a long way from checking Rio de Janeiro airline schedules.

An eight-nation tournament follows during December in Senegal with two
groups, semi-finals, a third-place play-off and a final, and the top three finishers secure Olympics places.

It would mean the Meteors needing to play 11 matches — four more than many other hopefuls like Nigeria and South Africa.

Nigeria and South Africa and Algeria, Egypt, Gabon, Ivory Coast and Morocco received byes to the third round because they qualified for the pre-2012 Olympics tournament.

South Africa had the worst record — two draws and a loss — four years ago and were initially placed in the second round.

But the withdrawal of original 2015 tournament hosts Democratic Republic of Congo led to Senegal taking over and they dropped out of the third round,allowing South Africa in.

Olympic qualifiers are restricted to under-23 footballers with three
‘wildcards’ allowed at the August 3-20 2016 finals in six Brazilian cities.

Three first-round fixtures in Africa this weekend include Ghana hosting Liberia, Botswana at home to Kenya and Rwanda hosting Somalia with the first and second legs two weeks apart.

Already underdogs, Liberia and Somalia face the additional obstacle of
having to stage their ‘home’ match outside the country.

Ebola epidemic concerns prevent Liberia using Monrovia and no international football has been played in violence-torn Mogadishu for decades.

Ghana should be sharper than Liberia having played a qualifier for the All-Africa Games — another under-23 tournament — recently.

But a Meteors team coached by 70-year-old former national team star Malik Jabir made hard work of overcoming Mozambique, needing an own-goal and a late Bright Adjei strike to squeeze through.

Jabir must do without young Ghanaian stars based abroad as their clubs have declined to release them because the qualifiers do not form part of the FIFA international calendar.

Liberia have called up Sporo Somah from reigning Ivorian champions Sewe San Pedro, Greece-based Herron Berrian and Cooper Gayria from an American university team.

Rwanda also picked footballers playing abroad with Irish coach Johnny
McKinstry including Belgium-based Solomon Nirisarike and Bonfils Kabanda from an Italian fourth-tier club.

Scotland-born Kenya coach Bobby Williamson chose Louis Misiko from French club Nice and Antony Mbugua from Israeli club Apoel Tel Aviv.

But university examinations rule out star striker Michael Olunga.
source: BSS