Keshi watching his team shape up for Liberia
Super Eagles of Nigeria will Saturday at the UJ Usuene Stadium, Calabar, take on the Lone Star of Liberia in one of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches after both sides ended the first leg in Monrovia 2-2 apiece.
Nigeria faces a scenario similar to that ahead of the biennial competition jointly hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea when surprisingly lost to the Syli Stars of Guinea at the Abuja National Stadium. Some of the actors in that encounter has vowed to erase the unpleasant memory by beating Liberia convincingly.
Indeed, the Nigeria Football Federation eggheads have warned chief coach, Stephen Keshi, not to toy with the game as the federation will not accept anything short of an outright victory against Liberia.
According to NFF director of technical Emmanuel Ikpeme: “The federation have given the coach all he needs to give Nigerians result this weekend so there would be no room for excuses. No national team coach should wait for last minute permutations to qualify for any tournament. Every national team coach should win all their matches and that is what we expect from the Eagles. They should win this weekend in Calabar and save us the headache of any mathematics as regards qualification.”
Meanwhile, Keshi has said the 2- 2 draw his team played with Liberia in Monrovia has angered his boys and that they are now fully prepared to demolish the Lone Star to prove their superiority. He said the $300,000 promised the Liberian team by their president notwithstanding, the Eagles would triumph.
“My team is fully ready for the match and I can assure you that we will make President Goodluck Jonathan smile and show him that in the face of all the calamities the country is facing there is something to cheer about,” Keshi said.
The Nigeria, coach will be without his inspirational skipper, Joseph Yobo, due to injury but has dismissed any fear, saying he has a good replacement for the Fernabahce of Turkey defender.
“There is no panic over Yobo’s injury; we are just motivated to secure the ticket to South Africa 2013. We know he loves to play games like this, that was why he was shedding tears but we have assured him that capable replacement will help secure the ticket to South Africa 2013 Nations Cup,” he assured.
Interestingly, Chelsea midfielder Mikel Obi, who finally arrived the Metropolitan Hotel camp of the Eagles on Wednesday after a long absence from the national team and Villarreal of Spain attacker Ikechukwu Uche have both assured Nigerians that theywill erase the memories of Guinea in their minds by defeating the Liberians.
In a telephone chat with THISDAY Uche said the 2-2 draw in Monrovia was disappointing, adding that their mission was to beat them at their backyard.
“It was a huge disappointment that we did not win the first leg in Monrovia after dominating for the better part of the game but our assignment on Saturday (today) is to rout the Liberian and wash away the memories of last year’s game against Guinea. Nigerians should expect nothing but victory as we will prove to the Liberians that football is not about talking. They are talking too much and we would teach them a good football lesson,” Uche said.
However, the Liberians are not in Nigeria as tourists as they stormed the country with a 125-man delegation on a chartered flight on Thursday ahead of the encounter.
The contingent of 125 persons, comprising players, technical and backroom staff, LFA officials, government functionaries, media representatives and supporters stormed their Channels View Hotel, Calabar, on Thursday and had a feel of the UJ Stadium pitch same day.
As parts of their preparation for Saturday’s crunch encounter Liberia lost 4-3 to Niger but their officials assured that the Lone Star were not at full strength.
Liberia football Chief Musa Bility said after the loss in Niamey that the country’s team was without several of their top stars. But the Kaetu Smith-coached Liberia side said they are confident they will cause an upset and qualify for their third Nations Cup 10 years after they last featured in the tournament.
Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup after they were held to a 2-2 draw by Guinea in Abuja which led to Coach Samson Siasia subsequently losing his job.
Keshi’s contract is tied to a performance clause, which stipulates he qualify Nigeria for the Nations Cup in South Africa and reach at least the last four of the biennial tournament.
Meanwhile, the 10,000-seater U J Esuene Stadium is expected to be filled to capacity for the clash.