Ghana held Nigeria to a 1-1 draw in the final play-offs of the 2022 World Cup at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja on Tuesday night to seal qualification to the global showpiece in Qatar later this year.
The first leg in Kumasi ended goalless last Friday, and goals from Thomas Partey and William Troost-Ekong ensured the return game also ended all square to leave the tie at 1-1 on aggregate after 180 minutes, but the Black Stars claimed the ticket to Qatar 2022 on the away goals rule.
The Super Eagles will therefore miss the World Cup for the first time since 2006.
Ghana opened the scoring after just 11 minutes through Thomas Partey’s strike. The Arsenal midfielder fired off a low, long-range effort which should have been kept out by Francis Uzoho, but the goalkeeper made a mess of his attempted save and allowed the ball to deflect off his body into the net.
Nigeria looked for a quick reply and Victor Osimhen flashed a shot across the face of goal from the right of the penalty area a short while later, while the 18th minute saw a sustained attack from the hosts which featured a penalty appeal from Lookman and a shot which needed a sharp save from goalkeeper Joe Wollacott.
Referee Sadok Selmi then went to the sidelines on the advice of VAR and was convinced by replays to award the Super Eagles a debatable penalty for a challenge from Dennis Odoi on Lookman. Captain William Troost-Ekong took the spot-kick and fired into the top corner to make it 1-1 in the 22nd minute.
Nigeria thought they had claimed the lead on 34 minutes when a long ball from midfield put Osimhen in behind the defence, with the striker then bursting past the challenge of Wollacott before turning the ball into an empty net, but the goal was ruled out by VAR for offside.
After the recess, the Black Stars made a promising start but the Super Eagles were soon back in control and creating attacking pressure, with Emmanuel Dennis heading narrowly wide from a corner kick on 55 minutes, followed by Osimhen having an acrobatic volley that flashed just over the crossbar.
The hosts boosted their attack with the introduction of tricky winger Moses Simon off the bench just after the hour mark, but Ghana stood firm in defence and continued to frustrate the team in green and white – with anxiety slowly building in the packed stands.
That proved to be as close as the Super Eagles would come to a late winner, with Ghana stubbornly holding out to secure a draw and claim a place at the global showpiece which will be held in November and December later this year.
This is Ghana’s fourth successful World Cup qualification campaign and sees them return to the tournament to add to their previous appearances in 2006, 2010, and 2014.