Nigeria chasing top spot vs Ethiopia
Nigeria’s Super Eagles will continue their quest to pick a place in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations when they play host to their Ethiopian counterparts at the National Stadium in Abuja on Sunday.
In the past, pundits would term this clash as a face-off between Goliath and David. But like the Biblical story of Goliath and David, Nigeria’s head coach, Samson Siasia, knows that the Ethiopians will be no easy preys.
“There are no easy games in football anymore. Those days of minnows are gone when you just sit down and believe that you can run over a team you consider small. It is those small teams that are the most dangerous because they come into the game without anything to lose. So we will approach this game with all seriousness and focus as we must win,” Siasia told SuperSport.com.
The build-up to this game has been contrasting for the two sides. The Super Eagles have had to grapple with injury worries since Tuesday this week while the Ethiopians had to trim their squad to accommodate more administrative officials for the trip to Abuja.
Ethiopian head coach, Iffy Onuora, has made it clear that Nigeria should not expect any favours from his team. He said his Nigerian roots will not have any effect on his plan to stun the Super Eagles.
Onuora said: “There will be no regret for me if my team beat Nigeria.First, I am a professional and I will put out the best team to face Nigeria.”
Interestingly, Onuora will be re-uniting with his cousin, Victor Anichebe, when they meet in Abuja on Sunday.
Though he is ready to put out a strong squad against Nigeria, 43-year-old Onuora has left out forward Chala Driba of Defence Force and defender Zenabu Kebede of Hawassa City. But Onuora, born in Scotland, is unperturbed that the duo is not part of the team for the game against Nigeria.
However, his opposite number, Siasia, is facing depletion in attacking options after watching the duo of Obafemi Martins and Osaze Peter Odemwingie sidelined by injuries. A third striker, Anichebe, has also suffered a knock. But the three face late fitness tests to ascertain if they will make Sunday’s clash in which the Nigerians are favoured to win.
Also the failure to process Victor Moses’ switch from England to Nigeria with Fifa early now means that the Wigan Athletic man misses the chance to make his debut.
Already first-choice goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, did not make the trip from his base in Israel to Nigeria after he ruled himself out during the week due an ankle injury.
The first time a recognised meeting between Nigeria and Ethiopia took place was in Lagos on April 20, 1968 when the West Africans won by 3 –1 in the first leg of the Olympic qualifying series. The Nigerian team completed the double on the Ethiopians on May 4, 1968 in Addis Ababa by winning with a lone goal.
However, it took another 14 years before the two sides met again. The Nigerian team then known as the Green Eagles overran the East Africans at the 1982 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations preliminary stage by three-nil. Stephen Keshi and Ademola Adeshina were the goal scorers on this occasion with the former scoring twice.
And a year later, both sides faced each other in a friendly in Addis Ababa on April 29, 1983. Once again, Nigeria maintained their unbeaten streak against the Antelopes of Ethiopia.
But it was not until 10 years later that the East Africans finally got their first win over Nigeria in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Addis Ababa on April 11, 1993.
In the return leg, the Super Eagles ran their opponents ragged with a 6 – 0 win in which Sunday Oliseh made a superb debut for the Nigerian seniors on July 24, 1993 at the National Stadium in Lagos.
Stars to watch
Going into this game, Nigeria in spite of the injury worries still have a glut of stars capable of winning this game. The likes of John Obi Mikel, Taye Taiwo, Obinna Nsofor, Ahmed Musa, Joel Obi and the Uche brothers, Kalu and Ikechukwu will definitely feature in Sunday’s tie.
The biggest threat to Nigeria’s defence line will come from SuperSport United’s Fikru Teffera and Oumed Oukri of Defence Force, who scored in Ethiopia’s 1 – 4 loss to Guinea in Addis Ababa last October.
Though coach Onuora has stated that he wants to guide the Ethiopians to create an upset against Nigeria, former Nigerian international, Mutiu Adepoju, believes that the present squad should defeat their opponents on Sunday. But Adepoju did not make any prediction.
He told SuperSpor.com t: “I don’t expect our team to go out there and fail to win.They know what is at stake and I believe they will go out against Ethiopia and get the job done. But I can’t predict the real outcome but I believe that the Eagles will win.”