Ghana’s World Cup bid seemed more likely after advancing out of their group. A dramatic 1-0 victory over South Africa on the final matchday jumped Ghana to the top of the group.

As it stands, Ghana advances to the playoff stages of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) World Cup qualification.

However, South Africa has other futures in mind.

Questionable call aids Ghana’s World Cup bid

Heading into the final matchday, the Bafana Bafana led Group G by three points. A draw or win secured their progress in the competition. Therefore, the Black Stars needed a win to advance Ghana’s World Cup bid.

Senegalese referee Maguette N’Diaye called a penalty for a push against Ghana midfielder Daniel Amartey just after 30 minutes. The Leicester City player fell to the ground inside the 18-yard box relatively easily.

Regardless, in his 100th cap, captain Andre Ayew stepped up to slot home the spot kick.

Following the match, South Africa Football Association CEO Tebogo Motlanthe issued a statement regarding his intent.

“We approached the match commissioner and informed him of our intention to lodge a formal complaint to CAF and FIFA about the questionable officiating during the match.”

A fixed match

Motlanthe believes the Senegalese referee officiated a fixed match. He told TimesLIVE his stance on the calls and what transpired on the pitch.

“We suspect the game was fixed and our position is that it must be investigated. The conduct of the match officials left much to be desired and we want both CAF and FIFA to investigate. We salute the boys and the technical team for the good work they have done.”

Unfortunate calls happen all the time in the sport. Motlanthe believes this issue extends beyond just the one penalty call. He intends to challenge the call with the oversight of other, retired referees.

“It was not only the incident of the penalty. It was not in isolation, and we will commission an expert in the form of a retired referee to analyze the performance of the referee. We will use our World Cup qualifying match against Senegal in 2017 that was replayed to put our argument forward.”

As a result of Ghana’s 1-0 win during World Cup qualifying, the two nations remained level after the group stage. Each team had 13 points from six games and owned a goal differential of +4. The teams each picked up 1-0 wins against each other. Then, the tiebreaker came down to goals scored. In this facet, Ghana outscored South Africa 7-6.

As a group winner, Ghana’s World Cup bid comes down to the final stage of CAF qualifying. The 10 group winners play two-leg playoffs to have the five teams advance to the group stages in Qatar.

Coaching Change

As of now, the Ghanaian FA’s decision to fire former Black Star Charles Akonnor for Serbian Milovan Rajevac seems like the right decision. As the manager, Akonnor guided his homeland through the African Cup of Nations qualification process. However, Ghana relieved him of his duties after the 1-0 loss to South Africa.

At the time, Ghana’s World Cup bid seemed almost nonexistent. Essentially, it was desperation time after the nation failed to qualify for Russia 2018.

Rajevac, a popular figure in Ghana, led the Black Stars to the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup.

Inversely, others saw Akonnor’s sacking as unwarranted.

Some Ghana fans find the recent results unimpressive, arguing Akonnor could have pulled out the same results.

Out of the 54 nations in CAF, only 26 have managers native to that country. This statistic includes two countries, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, who currently have a native as the caretaker manager.

Certain underlying assumptions exist in the African game. For one, African managers do not receive the same chances. Or, European managers overcome more obstacles. Finally, African players respect the expertise of Europeans more than their African counterparts.

If true, it is a devastating reality for the development of the game in Africa. Unfortunately, soccer, especially the World Cup qualifiers, are a results-based business.

The Next Step

“I wish these glory days come back again and the only way we can do that is if we are thinking positively and if we are supportive so we can achieve great results and we can make people of Ghana proud again.”

Rajevic understands the importance surrounding Ghana’s World Cup bid. Ghana is a soccer-hungry nation, as seen in their turnout during the World Cup in 2010 in South Africa.

1982 was a pivotal year across the world. To start, Michael Jackson released Thriller, the highest-selling album of all-time. Similarly, emerged as a superstar with his 1999 album. In sports, Michael Jordan announced himself to the masses by hitting the game-winning shot in the NCAA National Championship game. Also, Italy upset Brazil on the way to their third World Cup. Brazil changed its style of play following the result.

Finally, it is the last time Ghana won the African Cup of Nations.

Next year will be the 40th anniversary of the triumph. Ghana hopes to end the drought soon as AFCON 2021 starts on January 9 in Cameroon.

Also, Ghana’s World Cup bid could boost spirits ahead of the tournament.