When the Chips Are Down
Only very few people expected the Super Eagles to get to the finals of the Nations Cup. A lot of the new ‘supporters’ had silently wished that the team crash out of the tournament so that the need for a world class ‘white’ technical adviser (we seem to be the only country still using that term for our senior team managers) could be sold to the powers that be in Abuja.
Somehow and in an unbelievable manner, Stephen Keshi and his team are in the finals and would make the day of millions of Nigerians tomorrow if they could finish the job they started three weeks ago by defeating the formidable Burkinabes. The achievement of the current Super Eagles when compared to the past teams is quite encouraging. The last time Nigeria had so many debutants at a major tournament was in the Nations Cup hosted by Algeria in 1990.
Clemence Westerhoff (who was appointed a year earlier) was in the process of assembling the best team ever for Nigeria and he introduced a lot of young but foreign based players in to the team. Daniel Amokachi who is one of the assistants to Stephen Keshi was the youngest member of that team and he was a home-based player just like some of the debutants in the current team.
That particular team lost the first match against Algeria by 5 goals to 1 but went all the way to the finals and narrowly lost by a lone goal to the same team. That tournament actually marked the beginning of the golden era for Nigerian football which eventually culminated in the great first appearance at the FIFA World Cup in 1994 and the gold medal two years later at the Olympics in 1996 both in the United States of America.
History is beckoning again. The Super Eagles must seize this opportunity with all their hands. We have waited long enough since the year 2000 to play in the finals of Africa premier competition. It is not the time to lose focus, chicken out or fall foul of the laws governing the game.
Just like they did against the Ivoirians and Malians, the Super Eagles must be determined, focused, confident, tenacious and aggressive against Burkina Faso. Mikel must ensure that he continues to sacrifice for the team by playing a withdrawn role in the midfield. His Key task is to ensure that Bance and Jonathan Pitroipa are denied the ball. If he is able to effectively do this, the battle would be half won.
Brown Ideye, Efe Ambrose, Onazi Ogenyi and Vincent Enyeama must all carry the team on their shoulders. Young Omeruo and Oboabona must never forget that they are on the verge of history. The more experienced Elderson Echiejile must keep talking to these guys. I hope that Moses and Emenike are going to be fit for this encounter and will contribute their quotas as they have been doing since the commencement of the tournament.
Lastly, I believe that Nigeria is destined to win the game tomorrow and with God Almighty on our side, we will all rejoice at the end of the day.