By Olawale Ajimotokan
National coach Stephen Keshi has hinted the Super Eagles might play the 4-4-2 formation next Saturday against Liberia in the final round of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Calabar.
Keshi told reporters at the monthly media parley in Abuja that he likes to employ the 4-4-2 formation because it allows the wide men to compress into the middle when the team losses possession.
After playing an uninspiring 2-2 draw with the Lone Star last month in Monrovia, the Eagles will have to work their socks off when they meet fellow West Africans in the reverse fixture at the UJ Esuene Stadium.
Keshi, who is bidding to make his third appearance to the African Cup of Nations as a coach of Nigeria, revealed his philosophy after a member of the media accused him of employing the old fashioned 4-2- 4 formation.
“There is no team in the world that plays the 4-2-4 formation, so I cannot be an exception. We have not been gelling in our midfield play because the two flank players don’t come back as midfield players when we lose the ball. This mostly happens when we play with the foreign-based players. The local players understand this pattern of play which is to encroach into the midfield and block the play when we lose the ball. They know this because we usually practice it. I play the 4 4-2,” Keshi said.
While the public is anxious to see the Eagles in the fold of teams competing at the Nations Cup after they missed out at the last finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, Keshi has reassured the nation not to lose sleep over Liberia.
Keshi, who was Nigeria’s longest serving national captain, said that the Eagles would rise to the occasion next week and beat Liberia because the players realize what is at stake.
“We should not lose sleep because of Liberia. Though every nation is now preparing well in football, but it has not got to the point that we should be scared of Liberia. I understand the public concern because of our alarming decline in the past 10 years. We will go into that match with a mindset to get a win, but the players must stand to be counted.”
He similarly played down the latest FIFA ranking that pecked Nigeria at a low 63 in the world as “not important”, saying that what counts at the moment is qualification for South Africa 2013.