Saturday Sep 09, 2017. 14:53
Ghana will take center stage as they play host to the 2017 FoxSports West WAFU Cup of Nations Union (WAFU) Cup of Nations from the 9th–24th September 2017.
The tournament, sponsored by FoxSports International, features all 16 teams from the West Africa sub-region Zones A and B, playing in an opening knockout round for a place in the group stages, which will be followed by semifinals, a third-place playoff and the final.
The 2017 WAFU Cup of Nations will be hosted at two stadia in the Central Region of Ghana, namely the Cape Coast Sports Stadium, where all the knockout ties will be held, and the Nduom Sports Stadium which will host two group games.
Ghana will open the tournament with a game against Gambia on Saturday, September 9 before Senegal and Liberia also vie for a place in the Group Stage.
The Black Stars are the defending Champions having won the last edition at home in 2013. Coach Maxwell Konadu's side missed out painfully on the CHAN boat, but they would be looking to make amends on home turf as they host Gambia on the opening day.
Gambia, having assembled a youthful squad for the tournament, will seek to ruffle the feathers of the home team, and if they succeed, it will only serve as the bedrock on which the next generation of "Scorpions" will be built. They have a tough task on their hands but being the lowest ranked team in the competition per the World FIFA ranking index, a narrow defeat at the hands of Ghana will be a plus.
The "Teranga Lions" have not been able to leave their mark on the WAFU Cup of Nations since its inception and they have the added burden of being the highest ranked team going into the tournament. Senegal will have to confirm their superiority on paper in the tournament as they vie against Liberia for a spot in the group stage.
The "Lone Stars" have been handed a tough draw but getting over this hurdle will mean they will not face a stiffer test in the competition.
On the second day of the WAFU competition, Burkina Faso and Niger will fight for the chance to stay in the tournament subsequently followed by a battle of the Guineans with Guinea and Guinea Bissau contesting for qualification into the next round.
The Stallions shocked Ghana a month ago in the CHAN qualifiying series and buoyed by that victory will go into this tournament as one of the favorite teams.
History is not on the side of Burkina Faso but the Stallions will have to go all out to banish the past if they want to get their hands on their first ever WAFU title. However, they will have to break down a rising Niger side who have nothing to lose going into the tournament.
Also on Sunday, September 10 Guinea's "Syli National" will test their might against Guinea Bissau for a place in the knockout round. The "Wild Dogs" will look to stand up to their name against the Syli Nationale and prove that regardless of the FIFA ranking, a Guinea will be in the Group Stage.
Former WAFU Champions, Nigeria and Sierra Leone will battle it out an hour after Mali and Mauritania take aim at each other on the third day of the tournament on Monday, September 11.
The "Leone Stars" of Sierra Leone have never beaten Nigeria at the senior level and this is an opportunity to rewrite history for the 76th ranked football country in the world. Back at home, Sierra Leone is going through a very difficult time and the onus falls on the "Leone Stars" to give their people some glimmer of hope, at least for some 90 minutes, with a good performance in the tournament.
Mali and Mauritania will kickstart match-day three of the tournament and though there's not much to separate between the two sides, the "Eagles" will seek to soar over the "Mourabitones" on the opening day of the week.
The final knockout ties will be played on Tuesday with the “Elephants” of Cote d’Ivoire and former WAFU champions Togo dueling for an opportunity to join the Group stage. The "Hawks" of Togo ridiculed the form guide in the 2011 tournament overcoming hosts Nigeria to claim their maiden WAFU Cup, but first they would have to overcome Côte d'Ivoire if they hope to go all the way to the final this time around.
The "Squirrels" of Benin and the "Blue Sharks" of Cape Verde will compete for the final berth to the group stage of the WAFU Cup.
Cape Coast is the birth place of Ghana football and for 16 days, it will play host to the finest in West WAFU Cup of Nations.