The draw in Maputo put the Eagles qualification for South Africa 2010 in jeopardy because while the team was busy struggling to salvage at least a point against the less fancied Mambas, their rivals for the group ticket, the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia had recorded a convincing 2-1 victory over their host the Harambee Stars of Kenya.
Worried by the development, there was a public outcry in Nigeria for the 2005 debacle to be avoided and the president responded promptly by setting up presidential task force to help monitor the team’s preparations, qualification and participation at the 2010 World Cup. But even before the task force came into existence, the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, had secured two international friendly matches for the Super Eagles. Already, the matches have been played and the results have shown clearly that with the right attitude and organisation, the Eagles can still soar above their opponents.
The Eagles will be going into today’s battle with a lot of advantages. Apart from the confidence which has been restored in the players by virtue of the results of the two international matches played, they will be coming up against an embattled, disorganised and demoralised team. It is an open secret that the Kenyans did not arrive the country with their German coach who refused to follow them to Abuja until he was paid his three months salary. He has since joined the team but that is not a good signal for a team going into war. Besides, the Harambee Stars have been starved of adequate preparations for this match due to cash crunch. The team was scheduled to embark on a training tour of Germany but that did not come to pass and the team was left with no option but to engage local clubs in tune up matches. And considering the fact that the Kenyans have never had it easy with the Eagles, they may be in for another fruitless adventure. Moreover, going by results of international matches played recently by the two teams, the Eagles should have no problem beating their opponents convincingly.
Despite the fact that confidence is high on the side of the Eagles following their recent showings in the friendly matches against Ireland and France, Nigerians may be in for hypertensive moments as the technical crew led by Coach Amodu Shiabu may decide to engage reverse gear on the use of players available for the crucial encounter. Before the two friendly matches, there was persistent pressure on Eagles coaches to throw open the team’s camp for more players to come into the team. Unfortunately, Amodu who is not a risk taker continued in the infamous tradition of his predecessors who refused to give a chance to the upcoming generation. Consequently, while members of the old brigade like Kanu, Utaka, Olofinjana, and Aiyegbeni, continued to churn out sleep inducing performances, the youngsters were barred from the scene of action. Nigerian football fans have not stopped the clamour for younger players to be injected into the team which is fast aging.
Therefore, when the Eagles played the two international friendly matches, it was not only the results that caught the attention of Nigerians, but the whole hearted commitment by several of the new generation Eagles like Olubayo Adefemi, Sam Sodje, Micheal Eneramo, Ayodele Adeleye, Dickson Etuhu, Joseph Akpala who had been on the wings of the Eagles for so long. While Dele showed why he should be handed the central defence role, former Lobi Stars player and top scorer for Esperance, Tunisian Champions, Eneramo proved he can crack it at the highest level with a superb finish against Ireland.
As the Eagles go to battle today, Amodu has the knife and the yam. He has the final say as far as team selection is concerned. As a believer in the old brigade, he may be tempted to drop the youngsters who are on fire for players like Joseph Yobo, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, John Mikel Obi, Seyi Olofinjana, Chidi Odiah, Obinna Nwaneri, Kanu Nwankwo and Danny Shittu.
He needs not entertain any fear because he will not be taking any risk even if he continues with most of the players who prosecuted the two friendly matches. It will not be a risk because Nigerians are presently rooting for these youngsters who have proved in words and action that they want to salvage Nigeria’s World Cup ticket.
If he decides to go to the battle front with his “boys” nobody will stop him but if anything unpalatable happens, he will have himself to blame. But it must be said that Amodu is in dilemma because he is torn between the old brigade and the new generation Eagles.
Amodu himself knows the importance of today’s match and may decide to heed to the calls of Nigerians. The Eagles are in a killer mood but what is needed is accurate selection of players and this is where the coach will have to prove that he has outgrown parochial considerations in his selection of players.
Nigerian football fans are looking forward to watching the team that devoured France swoop on Harambee Stars of Kenya today at the Abuja National Stadium. The Eagles have got home support at their disposal and will not have any excuse for failure.