John Obi Mikel
The Super Eagles ended their training camp in Faro, Portugal in style on Tuesday when they trounce, Portuguese second division side, Farense 5-0, in a game described by Head Coach Stephen Keshi as dress rehearsal for the team’s opening game against Burkina Faso on January 21.
The match, which was again played at the Browns Sports and Leisure Club in Faro, where the Nigerian side stayed throughout its sojourn in Portugal, was barely five minutes old when right back, Efe Ambrose surging run into the danger area of the Portuguese was met with a vicious hacking. Centre referee Luis Costa wasted no time in pointing to the spot.
Chelsea star, John Mikel Obi, stepped in to coolly slot home the opener. But Farense made things difficult for the Eagles as Senegalese born striker, Sone Diop, Falardo and dangerman Fabio Texeira attacked sporadically in search of an equalizer that never came till the end of the first half. The Eagles on the other hand had plenty of chances to have buried the game in the first but Nosa Igiebor hit the cross bar thrice, Mikel followed suit with a fiery shot that also hit the bar and Emmanuel Emenike also missed a sitter.
In the second half Head Coach Stephen Keshi made sweeping changes. Kenneth Omeruo was in for Joseph Yobo, Juwon Oshaniwa for Elderson Echejile, Ogenyi Onazi for Mikel Obi, Sunday Mba for Igiebor, Obiorah Nwankwo for Fegor Ogude, Ikechukwu Uche for Brown Ideye, Gabriel Reuben for Efe Ambrose mid-way into the half, same as Vincent Enyeama was replaced by Chigozie Agbim.
There was no immediate impact with the changes until in the 75th minute when an Emenike’s furious onslaught down the left wing of the pitch was clinically finished off by Ikechukwu Uche for one of his three goals of the evening. Goalkeeper Agbim must be credited for his quick counter-attack throw to Emenike.
Uche was to score another in the 80th minute after nice footwork by Ejike Uzoenyi left him face to face with goalie Sergio Serrar. He blasted into the roof of the net. He completed his hattrick of the evening after a fine interchange of passes between him, Onazi and Ejike.
Just as the referee was about blasting home the final whistle Ejike was to set up Emenike for the final goal on the dot of 90minutes for a comprehensive whitewash of the Farense side. The referee did not even allow for a restart after the fifth goal.
Farense Coach Antero Afonso said at the end of the encounter that his side has learnt useful lessons from the Nigerian national team and predicted that the Super Eagles will do well at the championship going by the quality of players he saw in the friendly.
“You have what it takes to win the championship, but you must take each game as it comes and adopt different styles for different opposition. You have very quick players so don’t allow yourself to be under pressure at any time in the tournament. I may not know the teams that will be at the tournament but the team I saw today should be among the favourites to win the African Cup,” he said.
The Nigerian side will depart Faro by 12:30 Portuguese time for Lisbon from where the team will connect a flight to Paris, France and from there to Johannesburg, South Africa. The team is expected in Nelspruit, venue of two of its first two group games on Thursday morning.