Watching the new Super Eagles assembled by Coach Stephen Keshi against the Stallions of Burkina Faso brought back the images of the glorious era of Clemence Westerhoff. Back in those days, the Super Eagles had what you would call ‘muscle men’ in the likes of Daniel ‘the Bull’ Amokachi, Sunday Oliseh, Austin ‘Cerezo’ Eguavoen, Uche Okechukwu and of course, Mutiu Adepoju. These were guys that were as hard as they come.
These guys were physically imposing and not a few opponents ‘knew’ it after playing the Super Eagles. The only team tougher and more physically endowed than the Eagles during the mid nineties to the early millennium was the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun.
The team paraded by Stephen Keshi against the Burkinabes was similar in outlook to the 1994 Super Eagles who remains the best collection of individual talents Nigeria had ever put on show. However lacking is the cohesion, fluidity, quickness, vision and doggedness.
Much has been written about the way and manner they threw away two points in the dying seconds of the match; it must quickly be noted that the pitch and referee had some roles to play in the outcome of the encounter. I do not hold brief for the team but what I saw was encouraging enough to make me pick up serious interest in the outlook of the squad.
With determination and focus on tactical discipline, this Super Eagles would go some place in the nearest future. My optimism is not far fetched if one considers the level of fitness displayed by the Super Eagles with other teams seen so far.
Against Zambia, the team must keep to shape and be tactically aware. I saw the Zambians playa friendly against South Africa some months back and I must confess they looked the part of a champion.
Football however is not played on reputation! It is the team that goes for it and wants it more that gets the spoils of the day. The Super Eagles must set a marker for this tournament by defeating the Zambians tomorrow. I am backing them to do it!
The Coach and his team must be up and doing as this is a match that must not be lost. I strongly believe that Keshi should deploy two holding midfielders against the Zambians while encouraging support play from the wings. I would be glad to see Moses in the line up while Emenike should start the match as he did against the Stallions.
My challenge is who comes in for Efe Ambrose? While the answer to this question remains the problem of the Coach, one thing must be certain; whoever replaces him must be up for it against the Zambians. Another issue that must be resolved is whether to have Moses from the start or call him in later. I didn’t really like the way Ahmed Musa threw away chances upon chances but he’s a handful player against any opposition. The choice is who to start within the two. This is the kind of headache most coaches would gladly endure. Having quality players in the squad is like going half way through the journey already.
The midfield with the trio of Nosa Igiebor, Mikel Obi and Obiora Nwankwo should be ready for the battle of their lives. Victory won’t come easy but it is a must!