The Super Eagles got a dose of what to expect at the SA 2013 Nations Cup next month when they were held to a 1-1 draw by gritty Nigeria Premier League side, Nasarawa United on Thursday morning in Abuja.
The Nasarawa side managed by veteran coach Alphonsus Dike, played their hearts out in the encounter but it was the national team that showed more maturity and should have easily won the game but for the several begging chances that were wasted.
The Eagles featured Femi Thomas, Solomon Kwambe, Benjamin Francis, Godfrey Oboabona, Azubuike Egwueke, Gabriel Reuben, Sunday Mba, Fegor Ogude, Tony Okputu, Ejike Uzoenyi and Gambo Mohammed in the first half and changed all the players for a new set of 11 players in the second.
In the early part of the game, the Eagles dominated and should have been at least two goals up in the first 10 minutes but the chances that came their way were wasted by Mba, Reuben and Gambo. In the 18th minute, a defensive mix-up by the national team allowed Nasarawa’s Ibrahim Ibrahim to steal in the opener of the game to the shock of the motley crowd that watched the game.
The goal was to change the tempo of the game as the Eagles upped their game in search of an equalizer. Their pressure paid off, when a Nasarawa defender held a goal bound shot and Referee Aniete Ukoh promptly pointed to the spot. Mba scored the equalizer in the 44th minute.
The new set of Eagles in the second half like Gomo Onduko, Ubale Mannir, Papa Idris, Henry Uche, Chibuzor Okonkwo, Zango Umar and goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, seemed to have more fluidity in the second half but the Nasarawa side kept it tight at the back to run away with a 1-1, draw. After the game a not too happy Stephen Keshi sent the players back to the pitch for another 20 minutes of physical drilling.
Nasarawa handler, Dike, said he was impressed with the quality of players that have been picked for the national assignment but admonished the team handlers to work on the concentration level of the players.
“The players were quite good and among the best in the country but the need to improve in the area of concentration because that was what caused the goal my team scored against them”.
Meanwhile, Keshi, has said he called up experienced right back, Chibuzor Okonkwo, because he believes that every person deserves to be given a second chance in life no matter what, but the player must now justify his call up.
It will be recalled that Okonkwo was among the first set of home-based professionals Keshi invited last December but after a few days in camp he bolted out of the country for a fruitless trial with English Premier League side, Aston Villa. This was after Keshi had decreed that home-based players must be ready to stay at least six months with the national team before attempting to travel abroad for greener pastures. Since then he has been overlooked.
But Keshi said he deserves a second chance because he’s a versatile player and has the experience that can impact positively on the national team.
“But he has to prove that he’s a better player in terms of discipline and action on the pitch,” he said.
Okonkwo played the second half in the 1-1 draw against Nasarawa United on Thursday and showed flashes of his old self.
Meanwhile former Super Eagles striker, Benedict Akwuegbu, former Club Owners Scribe, Arthur Kwame and Ondo Football Agency Director, Mike Idoko, were part of the crowd that watched the national team played out a 1-1 draw against Nasarawa United and gave the team thumps up.
Kwame said he believes the team was on its way to the glory days, Idoko on his part said he was thrilled by the quality on display by players from the Nigeria Premier League, while Akwuegbu said he came to lend his support to the team ahead of the championship in South Africa.