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Can Eagles fly over Ethiopia’s Antelopes to Brazil 2014?

It is no longer news that the Super Eagles will battle the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia in the Brazil 2014 World Cup playoff, the final…

It is no longer news that the Super Eagles will battle the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia in the Brazil 2014 World Cup playoff, the final hurdle for a ticket to the biggest and most glamorous soccer showpiece on earth.
What is new is whether the three time Africa Cup of Nations conquerors will extend their dominance over the Ethiopians to book a ticket to the 2014 mundial.
The Eagles topped their Group F campaign with 12 points, winning three games, drawing three without a loss.
According to the draws made at the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) headquarters in Cairo, Egypt last Monday, the Super Eagles will play away first to the Walya Antelopes in October, before hosting the second leg at home in Nigeria.
Going by current FIFA ranking, one would quickly give it to the Nigerian team, as their opponents are ranked 93th in the world and 25th in Africa, compared to Nigeria’s fifth place in Africa and 36th in the world.
Available records show that in seven recent previous meetings between the two countries, the Nigerian team won five times, drew one and lost just once to Ethiopia.
The first meeting between both countries was at the 1982 Africa Cup of Nations in Libya, where Nigeria thrashed Ethiopia 3-0. Current Eagles handler Stephen Keshi scored a brace in the game with Ademola Adeshina getting the other goal.
During the 1994 Nations Cup qualifier return leg in Lagos in 1993, Nigeria thrashed Ethiopia 6-0. Late goal king Rashidi Yekini scored a hat-trick in that game, which also was the international debut for Sunday Oliseh.
Other results show that in 2011 during the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the Abuja National Stadium, the Eagles under Coach Samson Siasia mauled the Ethiopians 4-0 through Peter Utaka and Ike Uche who scored a brace each to earn Nigeria a convincing victory.
In the 2012 Nations Cup qualifier, the star-studded Nigeria forced their hosts to a 2-2 in Addis Abba in a 2012 Nations Cup qualifier. Ethiopia star striker Saledin Said scored a brace and it needed a late equaliser to salvage a point on the road for the Eagles against an inspired Ethiopian side, only to suffer a massive 0-4 loss in the return leg in Nigeria.
The last meeting was a 2-0 win for Nigeria at the 2013 AFCON in South Africa, where Victor Moses scored a brace from the penalty spot to catapult the Eagles into the last eight of the tournament on their way to their third Nations Cup triumph.
Ethiopia recorded a famous victory over their more illustrious opponents in a 1994 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, while another match between them ended in a draw.
Many analysts, including officials in the NFF see the pairing as a bonus to the Super Eagles, who they have predicted would pick the Brazil 2014 World Cup ticket on a platter of gold, saying the Walya Antelopes are no match to the Eagles.
Coaches from the two camps have spoken on their plans to outwit each other and claim the World Cup ticket, with each of saying it would be suicidal to underrate the other team.
 Ethiopia Head Coach Swenet Bishaw says his team must utilize their first leg home game against African champions Nigeria next month in the last phase of the 2014 World Cup qualifier.
“We cannot underrate Nigeria at all, but we shall make sure that we make use of the first leg because I have learnt that winning at home is always very important.
“We are going to work so hard in the remaining weeks since most of our players are local based,” Bishaw had said.
Moment after the draws, the NFF said it was confident the Super Eagles have a 100 per cent chance of beating Ethiopia to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals.
NFF Assistant Technical Director, James Peters, said that he was sure the team would be in Brazil in 2014 after overcoming Ethiopia.
He said: “We have a 100 per cent chance of advancing and qualifying, because in Africa today no team can overcome or subdue us. It may be in another five years to come, but certainly not now.
“But between now and five years, there is no African country that can bring us down,” Peters said.
The former Super Falcons’ handler said he was confident the Ethiopians would not be a match to the Super Eagles, even though there are no longer minnows in football.
“Yes, there are teams that you will want to face and say anything can happen. But, with Ethiopia, nothing can happen. We will just advance, because there is no upset with Ethiopia.”
But the past results notwithstanding, the Eagles must be wary of the Ethiopians, who have improved rapidly in recent times.
On paper, the encounter looked simple for Nigeria, but in reality, it could lead to Nigeria’s ouster if adequate preparation is not made, considering that it took Nigeria more than 70 minutes to score against Ethiopia when the two sides met at the last Africa Nations Cup tournament in South Africa.
No doubt, Ethiopia would not be n easy win for Nigeria as they no longer minnows in African football, hence the need to study the Ethiopians very well and to assemble all the players that could provide victory for the country.
My candid advise is for Coach Stephen Keshi to aim at winning the first leg match in Ethiopia with as many goals as possible in order to make the second fixture a mere formality.
As advised by a former Super Eagles player Dominic Iorfa, the team’s handlers and players not to underrate their playoff opponents, but instead approach the two-legged tie as a World Cup final.
It is pertinent to advise that the Eagles should note that no country is a minor in world football today, and approach the Ethiopian game with all the seriousness that it deserves as no match is won until the final whistle is blown.
The team and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) officials should note that the playoff is the most as difficult stage in the World Cup qualifier, and should give 100 percent concentration, knowing that any distraction could spell doom for the country.  
It is also important for the Super Eagles players, coaches and the parent ministry to at this stage close ranks, avoid frictions to secure the prized ticket for the country.
Anything that would stand on Nigeria’s way to Brazil 2014 World Cup ticket must be crushed or avoided, including the agitation for increased bonuses that nearly polarised the team before the 2013 Confederations Cup.
It is against this backdrop that I commend Super Eagles Coach Stephen Keshi who predicted a tough and exciting encounter against the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia.
Keshi, who refused to rule out upsets in the final round, said he foresees a very difficult opposition in the East Africans, but however assured that that the Eagles will not disappoint.
“I have a lot of respect for the Ethiopians and all the teams that made it to the last round of the qualifier and I am certain that it will be tough, unpredictable and exciting for both the so called big teams and the minnows.
 “The last time we played the Ethiopians it was quite tough and I know when we meet next it’s going to be the same thing. All we need to do is to be focused, concentrate and pray for good health for our best players and the rest will be history,” he said.
The soccer tactician, who is away to the US, assured that the list for first leg encounter in Addis Ababa  will be released on time, adding that all the players are aware of the enormous task of qualifying for the World Cup and the team will show the stuff it’s made of when the games are held.

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