John Paintsil
John Paintsil

Former Black Stars defender, John Paintsil, says Ghana’s group opponents must not be underestimated in the upcoming 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

Ghana discovered its group opponents on Thursday during CAF’s Congress in Ivory Coast.

The four-time African champions have been housed in Group I alongside Mali, Comoros, Madagascar, Central African Republic (CAR), and Chad.

The West African country has a superior pedigree than all of their opponents who have yet to qualify for the World Cup, having appeared in it four times.

However, Paintsil who featured in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups with the Black Stars said Ghana could be punished and eventually miss the tournament if they don’t prepare adequately for the qualifiers.

“It’s not a difficult group but a tricky one. We have Mali, Madagascar, CAR and Comoros, which have a history with us. Comoros believe their history against us at the Nations Cup is still there,” he said as reported by 3Sports.

“Countries paired against Ghana in the group have an upper hand because they have nothing to lose playing us. If we beat them, it’s no use, but if they beat us, it’s big news and that tells you it’s a tricky group. Mali is the most stubborn football country in Africa because they can upset you anytime,” he added.

Ghana will be aiming for their fifth appearance in six World Cups having represented in 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2022.

While they are yet to play Chad, Ghana have faced all the other four opponents in previous encounters with Madagascar being the most recent one. The Black Stars beat Madagascar 3-0 at the Cape Coast Stadium last year but were held to a draw last month both in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers. They will wrap up their AFCON qualifiers against CAR before the World Cup qualifiers begin in November having already drawn 1-1 against them in 2022.

Meanwhile, Comoros seem to be the side among their opponents to have handed them one of the worst nightmares in the history of Ghana football as they caused the Black Stars’ early exit in the 2021 AFCON held in Cameroon.

Ghana were beaten 3-2 in a match that could have seen them proceed beyond the group stage with a draw.

To qualify for the World Cup, the Black Stars must overcome the hurdles provided by their opponents and emerge as group winners.