After negotiating two 2014 World Cup qualifying fixtures against Namibia and Malawi, the Super Eagles of Nigeria will turn their attention to the 2013Africa Nations Cup qualifier against Rwanda in Calabar today. It has been a busy June for the National team as the rebuilding process under Coach Stephen Keshi is gradually taking shape.
Nigeria played a goalless draw against Rwanda in the first leg and the players have promised to take the Rwandans to the cleaners today.
The Super Eagles in their last two matches have not been spectacular or bad either, but based on the performances of the team, it seems the Eagles are still a long way to being world beaters. There have been some improvement in the team especially in the team’s spirit and Keshi deserves commendation for that.
The players are now willing to fight for the ball and for the team which is a good step in the right direction. Despite the absence of key midfielders like Mikel Obi, Kalu Uche, Dickson Etuhu and Joel Obi, Nigeria has been able to create a lot of chances in earlier matches which is good for the team.
Against Namibia Nigeria won by a lone goal after Ik Uche and co missed literally hundreds of good chances. Ik Uche only found the back of the net after several misses to give the Eagles a deserved lone goal victory. The relief on Keshi’s face was priceless after the goal signifying the tension the near goalless encounter had put the Nigerian tactician.
Even though Keshi and the Nigeria Football Federation have denied that Keshi is not under pressure, Keshi knows that a draw against Namibia at home would have put him under immense pressure since Nigeria had lost her last two friendly games under him.
Rebuilding or no rebuilding, Nigerian fans are the most impatient in the world and would have started calling for his head had it been the three points was not taken against Namibia.
Like earlier suggested before the Namibia game in which LEADERSHIP WEEKEND SPORTS enumerated five ways by which Nigeria can beat Namibia, same could be applied against the Rwandans. Against Namibia, one of the points raised was that the defence must concentrate for 90 minutes as it has proved in recent times that the Nigerian defence have been guilty of conceding late goals.
That came back to haunt the team in the game against Malawi in Blantyre, after taking the lead and coasting to victory, the Eagles conceded a late equaliser against Malawi which left a bitter taste in the mouth, typical of Nigerian defence due to loss of concentration.
Today against Rwanda, Nigeria is expected to take the three points but based on what the fans witnessed against Namibia it will be a hard fought victory. In three official games since Keshi took over, Nigeria has scored just a goal against lowly sides like Rwanda, Namibia and Malawi.
The strikers need to step up since the chances are being created by the midfielders but the strikers have been goals shy with Coach Stephen Keshi attributing it to anxiety on the part of the strikers. He said: “The team and particularly the strikers are under tremendous pressure to deliver and that is why they make mistakes in front of goal and in the process it comes out to hunt them.
We must be patient with the team and the strikers and very soon the goals will start rolling in aplenty. But are Nigerians ready to be patient? That is the big question.” He asked.
Super Eagles stand in Captain Vincent Enyeama believes after the last two experiences, the Eagles are now hungrier to beat Rwanda. “We were supposed to win in Malawi and it didn’t happen, that is now in the past.
We must forget that and be ready to beat Rwanda silly to qualify for the next Nations Cup. Don’t forget gentlemen that we failed to qualify for the last Nations Cup and God forbid; thunder will not striker twice in our time. That is why I’m begging us to leave issues of last week behind and get ready to pound Rwanda for the Nations Cup.”
Maybe a change of formation from the coach and going for broke against Rwanda may change things. One of the major reasons Nigeria didn’t qualify for the last Nations Cup was the inability of the strikers to score and kill off games letting the opposition get back into the game.
The Super Eagles must beat the Rwandans emphatically so as to show that they are still a force in African football. Nigeria is out of the top 10 ranked teams in Africa and even teams like Mali, Sierra Leone and Libya are ranked higher than Nigeria.
So, what better way than to bounce back from the disappointing draw against Malawi with harvests of goals today.