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One match at a time to South Africa!

That’s exactly what happened last weekend. Although the Tunisian defence did not give the Eagles frontline any breathing space to do any of the fancy…

That’s exactly what happened last weekend. Although the Tunisian defence did not give the Eagles frontline any breathing space to do any of the fancy stuff that saw them outplay Ireland and France, they too could not construct anything in 90 minutes to break through a surprisingly much disciplined Nigerian defence. They pressure-marked the Uche brothers into impotency! Both of them looked so bad on the night that they had to be substituted. Only Obinna Nsofor’s quick acceleration stood out in the Nigerian attack as he managed to escape from the close marking of the Tunisians a few times. The Nigerian defence on the other hand was so well organised and so physically imposing on the Tunisian attackers that for the entire duration of the match they did not have a clear view of the Nigerian goal!

Technically, there is not much to report on the match. Sentiments apart it was drab. The match could have gone on almost forever and the Tunisians would not have scored against the Eagles.  On the other hand the Super Eagles had only one clear chance at the Tunisian goal, a cross from an Odemwingie-run that found Eneramo at the far post. His side footing ended up in the terrace rather than behind the stranded Tunisian goalie! Neither side deserved to win, and neither side did, so, football justice was done!

The Super Eagles – always a tough nut to crack!

 There is something about the Super Eagles that often defies ordinary understanding. Nine matches and no defeat, with the prospect of three more to add to the impressive statistic, the Super Eagles are not the easiest team to play against or to defeat, even when the team is playing poorly as it often does these days. The awesome reputation of its players, the physical nature of their play, the strength and athleticism of the players, all these provide a basis for advantage. Unfortunately, he rarely uses the combination of these attributes until he is pressed to the wall. Then he abandons all the fancy stuff, the exaggerated skills and unclear tactics, and fights like a cornered animal! Incidentally, that’s how several African teams, themselves are not versed in high tactical play, find the facing any Nigerian team challenging and intimidating! That’s the advantage the Eagles applied in Rades. Not once throughout that match did the Eagles feel threatened. Not once did Nigerians watching all over the world feel anxious or nervous. It was a match that generated more tension off than on the field.  

Looking ahead to the three matches left to play, two at home and one away to Kenya, it seems reassuring that Nigeria’s road to South Africa is getting smoother. True the match in Kenya is going to be a dicey affair considering that with the last victory over Mozambique, the Kenyans have played themselves again into reckoning for a place in the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola!  The greatest danger now lies in taking more than one stride at a time into the last three matches. The games must be considered to be 3 different journeys to be taken one at a time. Nigeria may still be walking a tight rope, but surely, step by step, one match after the other, the march to SA 2010 goes on and is now firmly in Nigeria’s hands.

When a draw is as good as a win!

Please understand that this is just an academic exercise. Nigeria played a goalless draw in Mozambique, played before a very hostile crowd, on an unfamiliar surface, in high altitude, and with a team that did not have a Presidential Task Force to motivate it!  The team played rather poorly and escaped Maputo with a draw! Nigerians went ‘berserk’! I believe no one even mooted the idea of a match bonus for the players. Even the Presidency was compelled by the sheer force of public opinion to intervene and get the eagles back on track to South Africa 2010. Since Maputo no stone has been left unturned to ensure the mission is accomplished.

This was followed by a win at home against a ‘bush’ Kenyan team. That victory was lavishly celebrated!

Last Saturday, away from home again this time, even though the team was really not outstanding, did not win the match, had a full complement of its best players to choose from, had two plane-loads of supporters to cheer them, and was highly motivated by promised rewards, the Eagles played a barren draw. The celebration after this drawn match is yet to abate. The players have been hailed as heroes and have been paid the highest match bonuses ever paid to a winning team in the history of Nigerian football! Wait a minute. What is the big deal about this drawn match this time around?

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