Super Eagles training for the crunch match
By Duro Ikhazuagbe
After two draw matches at the on-going Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, the Super Eagles and their handlers need no reminding that the moment of truth is finally here.
Tuesday’s final group game with Ethiopia is not only one that will decide Nigeria’s fate it may also point in which direction Stephen Keshi’s romance with the Eagles will head. It is a win or bust one for the coach and his Eagles!
Nigeria’s second draw result against cup holders, Zambia was considered unacceptable. All through the weekend, speculations have been all over Johannesburg here that Keshi’s job was on the line despite the Nigeria Football Federation officials denying putting pressure on the 51-year-old gaffer.
“There is no reason whatsoever for the team to fail. The NFF has done its own part, done virtually everything required of the Federation to prepare a team for a competition and motivate that team,” was how the Chairman of the NFF’s Technical Committee, Christopher Green showed his annoyance with the difficult situation Eagles are going into Tuesday’s last group match with the Walya Antelopes.
He stressed further: “The draws against Burkina Faso and Zambia were uncalled for, but those matches are behind us and we have a huge opportunity to put things right against the Ethiopians.”
The NFF organised top-class friendly matches for the Super Eagles in the run-up to this tournament, with the team playing against Venezuela in the United States of America, Catalonia in Barcelona and Cape Verde (one of the first teams to reach the quarter finals here) in Portugal.
They also played against Dutch club FC Rotterdam and Portuguese club Farense during a 20-day final training camp in Faro, Portugal.
But a source in the Eagles’ camp hinted Monday night that both players and officials are under pressure right now even as the Ethiopians are not considered enough threat to stop the team from progressing to the knock out stage.
“There is pressure on everyone of us now. Both the coaches and players are aware of the implication of failing to beat the Ethiopians,” hinted the source who will not want to be quoted because of his position in the team.
Since arriving at their Hunters’ Rest camp in Rustenburg on Sunday afternoon, the Super Eagles have savoured the elegant environment of their ahead of the testy duel with the fast-paced Ethiopians who were mauled 4-0 by Burkina Faso in their second game in Nelspruit.
According to Green, “We have to be very careful against the Ethiopians. They run hard and forever and do the short-passing game brilliantly. But with the personnel that we have here, we should be able to contain them and get the goals we need to reach the quarter finals.”
Team Captain, Joseph Yobo who has recovered from injury he picked up in the first match against Burkina Faso has recovered and could come into the fray, with youngster Kenneth Omeruo sure to fill in at right back, occupied by midfielder Ogenyi Onazi against the Cup holders on Friday.
Cup holders Zambia take on Burkina Faso’s Etalons at Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium simultaneously today. Depending on results of the matches, the Super Eagles will either remain in Rustenburg or return to Mbombela for Sunday’s quarter finals.