Dear Super Eagles,
On Sunday, October 13th 2013 you will be playing the first leg match of the Brazil 2014 world cup qualifier against Ethiopia in Addis Ababa.
Previously, you have only played the Ethiopians 3 times at their home ground with one win, one loss and one draw record.
The only loss was in the 1994 AFCON Qualifier match which ended 1-0 in favour of the Ethiopians, but the Rashidi Yekini led Super Eagles thrashed Ethiopia 6-0 in the second leg.
Late goal king Rashidi Yekini scored a hat-trick in that game, which also was the international debut for a certain Sunday Oliseh and the Super Eagles then were the golden generation winning the Tunisia’94 AFCON tournament.
Fast forward to 2013 and you are the champions of Africa with a relatively young team that went all the way against all odds. You played your next opponent in the last group game in South Africa which was very important and you needed to win the game after only picking up 2 points in your first two games.
Ethiopia inspired by their amazing fans were a good team, they played the counter attacking tactics against the you and defended properly as you chased the game knowing that it’s a must win or you are out of the tournament.
It took a five star performance by Victor Moses in the last 15minutes to win two and convert two penalties which gave you a 2-0 victory in South Africa.
After the heroics of the AFCON 2013 tournament, you continued to impress in friendly games and world cup qualifiers but the Stephen Keshi led team seems to struggle at home during the qualifiers as opponents are set up to defend deep and play on the counter.
You find it hard to break down teams who park the bus and as the African champions, it is expected that most teams would park the bus or even the “molue” sef…
This was evident in the 1-1 draw in Calabar against the Harambee stars of Kenya and the last qualifying game against Malawi where Victor Moses and Emenike scored in the 71st and 83rd minute respectively.
You tend to perform when playing away or playing a team that wants to attack and not defend in numbers like the friendly game against Mexico, South Africa and not forgetting the loss to Spain at the last confederations cup.
Despite the loss you played a good game against the World champions and Nigerians all over the world were proud of you but lack of potent strikers was evident in that match.
Okay, let’s go back to AFCON 2013 against that stubborn Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba led Ivory Coast team, Oboabona and Omeruo were fantastic as Drogba was in the ‘pocket’ of Omeruo all through the match, the team in general were amazing… Defended deeply with quick passes to break and attack. Sunday Mba scored that beautiful that winning goal that is still in my memory.
In the Semi-final, I watched one of the best games any super eagles’ teams have played.
The world witnessed beautiful counter attacking football by our dear Super Eagles where Moses and Ahmed Musa were fantastic in their movements and runs behind the Malians defence.
The current Super Eagles are more of a counter attacking team, with fast attackers like Moses, Musa, Emenike and wing backs like Echiejile and Ambrose supporting the attack at every given opportunity.
Don’t be deceived, you do not have creative midfielders that can split opposition defence when they bring ‘the bus’ to the pitch. You most times play with Onazi, Mikel and Sunday Mba as the 3-man midfield who are all more of a Defensive Midfielders/CM than attacking midfielders.
Yes, Mikel has been fantastic as the number 10 role but he is used to playing as a defensive midfielder at Chelsea and you can’t expect him to have the same vision as a player that plays the number 10 role week in week out.
Despite been in great form playing the attacking midfielder role in previous games for the Super Eagles, I still believe the team struggle to break down oppositions as you do not play quick passes in the final third to free the wingers.
Oh well, all I am saying is you can only play on the counter when we are playing away and I expect ‘the boss’ Stephen Keshi and the players to have figured this out as we, Nigerian fans are impatient when the team is struggling to score at home which was obvious in the last game against the Malawians in Calabar.
I am sure as you were all on the pitch you can feel the frustrations as you look for the goals in that important game.
If we lose or draw come Sunday in Addis Ababa, it is going to be hard to qualify for the world cup.
The second leg game on November 16th in Calabar is most likely going to be very tough as the Ethiopians are a much improved side from the one we defeated earlier this year and we might be on the verge of missing the 2014 world cup in Brazil.
Oh! The thought of Nigeria not qualifying for Brazil 2014 alone… sigh
The young man here is planning to go for the world cup, and already thinking about the beautiful ladies and samba football ;). So, my dear Super Eagles pls make us proud by going for victory in Addis Ababa on Sunday and save us the stress and frustrations in the second leg come November.
I know you can do it and we will all smile in the end… C’mon NIGERIA, Go Super Eagles!!!
By: Segun Ake