Cyril C. NwokejiWednesday, October 2, 2013




n the 13th of October, our dear Super Eagles would confront the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia, in the first of a two-legged confrontation, for a place at the world cup finals in Brazil, in 2014. The journey so far has been one mixed bag of success and near failure for our dear Super Eagles - no thanks / thanks to the rebuiding process, which is apparently ,gradually, giving us the Super Eagles of our dreams. The some times near stuntering runs the Super Eagles experienced on the way, were the necessary "price," needed to be paid for success. We should however, thank our stars that those near stuntering runs didn't result in failure that could have been catastrophic.

Having gone through the painful process of the birth of a new Super Eagles, what do Nigerians expect from the Super Eagles during the two-legged encounters against the Ethiopians?: victory and nothing less than victory! Anything less could be tantamount to modern day "Harakiri," - TUFIAKWA. And why not victory? We are not for nothing African champions; talkless of the previous fantastic performances of our Super Eagles in African soccer. I make bold to say, notwithstanding the progress made by Ethiopia, in recent times in soccer, which I must confess have been impressive, we are still quite some classes ahead of them.

That said,what would the Super Eagles expect in the encounter with the Ethiopians, come 13th of October, in Addis Ababa?: certainly, the " Ethiopian blues." What constitutes these "Ethiopian blues"? :

  1. A very physically fit Ethiopian side, with lots of stamina - thanks to their high altitude country - determined to do battle with the Super Eagles ;

  2. Their very vociferous, and sometimes, fanatical supporters constantly urging them on, for the entire duration of the match ;

  3. The Ethiopians may try one or two off-field tricks, aimed at frustrating the Super Eagles; one expects the NFF and the Nigerian embassy, to be on the watch out !

  4. The match may be played in a smaller stadium, with the aim of derailing our free flow style of play, and also put the Super Eagles at a more disadvantage with regards to their vociferous supporters.

The pertinent question at this juncture is: can these so called "Ethiopian blues," derail the Super Eagles?

Under normal circumstances, no. The Super Eagles, with all due respects to the Ethiopians, are too talented, and - experienced a side, to be derailed by Ethiopia. The Super Eagles and their handlers, need to be on the watch out, and leave nothing to chance.

How can the Super Eagles, defeat the Ethiopians, even on home soil, come 13th of October?

Notwithstanding the previous difficulties experienced by our teams in the difficult climatic conditions in Addis Ababa, we can pull the chestnut out of the fire this time around, if we do the following:

  1. With regards the effects of the high-altitude circumstances of Addis Ababa, the NFF, has, in my opinion already made a satisfactory travel arrangement for the Super Eagles. They have no doubt learnt from their mistakes the last time around the Super Eagles, travelled to Addis Ababa, to confront the Walya Antelopes, in a Nations' cup qualifier, in 2012 ;

  2. The technical crew under leadership of Coach Stephen Keshi, should ensure our boys are physically, technically and tactically well prepared for this encounter;

  3. The Super Eagles players should not under-estimate the Ethiopians, notwithstanding the class difference. They should take this encounter as well as the return leg in Nigeria, as two different cup finals. Meethinks our players are not short on motivation; apart from the expected largesse they would get on qualification for Brazil 2014; the fact that a fellow player like Emmanuel Emenike, is ready to willingly part with 50,000 dollars of his personal fortune, to motivate his collegues to qualify for Brazil 2014, speaks volumes about the motivation of the Super Eagles;

  4. Talking about tactical preparation, I expect the technical crew to fashion out a winning tactic under the difficult circumstances in Addis Ababa. Here is my humble contribution in this regard: I expect our boys to play their new found, "tip tap," soccer this time around with more emphasis on the Spanish model of "tiki taka," - a la FC Barcelona. This means they should not be in a hurry, to look for openings in the Ethiopian defence; we should keep ball possession. We have the quality of players needed to achieve this objective. I expect the Ethiopians, to build a " Kilimanjaro -like " wall of defence, to ward -off our attackers and try to catch us on the counter. We can frustrate them, by keeping ball possession; play them to 'sleep,' with our sexy, "tiki taka ," soccer, and then strike them. The whole proces can restart, and whenever we play them to 'sleep ,' we strike again; and may be again, depending on how many times we succeed in playing them to ' sleep.' This method of playing the Ethiopians has the following advantages :

    • It certainly would be very cost-effective to our boys, as they would spare lots of energy while confronting the Ethiopians at home, under very difficult climatic conditions - "the rarified air ," of Addis Ababa.

    • The Ethiopians, if denied ball possession on their pitch ,during the course of the match, would continue running " helter, skelter," all over the pitch, with nothing tangible to show for their efforts, this would certainly frustrate them; they may even tire out to the bargain! This would further rubbish whatever advantages they would have gotten, by playing at home.

    • It would conserve the energy of our boys right up to the end of the game. This would certainly be of huge benefit, considering the difficult circumstances they would have played in.

All things being equal, one expects the Super Eagles, to get a good result in Addis Ababa; preferably a victory. If we get a victory, in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopians would be most certainly, some what discouraged, for the second leg in Calabar, Nigeria; knowing fully well, that turning the tables against the Super Eagles,at home, would be almost impossible. On the other hand, a good result at home, by Ethiopian standards, would make them all the more desperate and consequently dangerous, to confront in Nigeria; knowing that having gotten this far, they certainly have a fighting chance of going to Brazil. This scenario is unwanted!

On a final note, meethinks that all things being equal, we should get a good result in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; before coming home to cross the 'ts' and dot the 'is,' and consequently book our ticket to Brazil. This is not being arrogant, but rather, being realistic !