Sports Features of Mon, 10 Apr 201710
How is Ghana shaping up for the 2018 World Cup qualification?
Pele's prediction that an African side would win the World Cup by the year 2000 may have been wide of the mark but Ghana have been one of the shining lights of the game on the Dark Continent for some time.
The Black Stars have reached the finals of the World Cup for the past three renewals, reaching the quarter-finals back in 2010 in South Africa.
However they have not made the best of starts to the final stage of qualification for Russia 2018 and, after two games, find themselves third in Group E with a solitary point to their name.
That came courtesy of a goalless draw with Uganda in their opening fixture while they went down 2-0 to Egypt in November.
The Egyptians top the standings with maximum points while Uganda are second on four and it is going to take a monumental effort for Ghana to make the finals with only one spot from each group available.
The man charged with the task of hauling them to the top is Akwasi Appiah, who is back for a second stint in charge after Avram Grant stepped down following this year's Africa Cup of Nations.
Grant led the side to fourth place in the AFCON but opted to end his tenure and they have turned to the man was previously in charge between 2012 and 2014.
Whether he can do it only time to tell and punters looking to back them should click here to check out the odds and offers available.
The 56-year-old seemed to get the best out of his players in his previous spell in charge and, while they failed to make the knock-out stage in Brazil three years ago, they were in a group with both Germany and Portugal.
And it could be argued that a 2-2 draw with the Germans was one of the results of that tournament in Brazil, with Andre Ayew and Asamoah Gyan on target for the Africans.
Appiah now needs to lift his men for one final push over the remaining four games and there is still hope with the remaining fixtures.
Next up is a home clash with Conga, who have yet to register a point and would be seen as the weakest side in the group, and three points will be essential for the West African nation.
They follow that with a trip to DR Congo and it would be safe to say that Ghana will need to win that one as well before a trip to Uganda and the finale against Egypt on home soil.
If things go well then it may well go down to the wire and the final group game against The Pharaohs on November 6.
Appiah certainly has the players at his disposal to bridge the gap to Egypt, with the Ayew brothers, Christian Atsu, Daniel Amartey and Jeffrey Schlup well known to football fans in Europe and with plenty of top-flight experience.
The challenge for the returning coach is to get the best out of his charges once again and take six points from the Conga double-header on August 28 and September 2.
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