11 Oct, 14:25
After 7 goals in 6 matches was able to earn 12 group-winning points from the group stages, it is no longer news that Nigeria’s Super Eagles will face Ethiopia this weekend in a two-legged play-off for one of Africa’s five slots at next year’s World Cup.
Ordinarily this is a mis-match as Ethiopia are the clear under-dogs, but in football, it never really what it appears until the final whistle.
And as seen int he first leg playoff game, Ethiopia put in a fight, one that no one thought they would but the quality in the Eagles side paid dividends.
However, despite the lead, it is not over yet and there are some things to be noted.
In my last post, I noted certain frailties in the current Super Eagles which need to be addressed if the team is to embark on a hitch-free passage to Brazil – and thereafter; the team’s poor away performances, the team’s poor scoring form, over-dependence on certain players, as well as the alienation of some obviously better players.
Coach Stephen Keshi has done a splendid job of building a unit of determined lads. This, plus some measure of luck has seen things going somewhat right for the team continuously. However, I will not fail to note that team-work, determination and luck alone are not the only ingredients in a world beating team. Judicious and unsentimental deployment of experienced and quality materials (in this case, players) as well as timely judgement, based on sound tactical acumen, are equally crucial to success on the way to, and at the highest level.
With the team in place at the moment, I believe Nigeria’s flag will be hoisted in Brazil next summer, but nothing must be left to chance in the next two games. The coaches must pay attention to the lapses in the team as there is usually a very thin tolerance margin for errors. The players must play with maximum focus and intensity over the two legs as a great deal will also depend on their attitude and mental strength; how they handle the hostile crowd, the pressure (or frustration) when goals don’t come, and when refereeing decisions don’t go their way.
I wish the Eagles luck as they prepare to book their tickets to Brazil.