Delicate Balance

Nigeria-vs-Kenya (1)

As the Super Eagles get ready to battle the Harambee Stars of Kenya tomorrow in Nairobi, the task to be performed is as delicate as porcelain. Taking a second look at the first leg of the encounter in Calabar back in March when it took a last gasp equalizer to rescue a point for the Super Eagles, only a novice would not be apprehensive about the likely outcome of this match.

While Nigeria is on the upward climb and currently is the King of African football, the truth is that nothing will motivate the Kenyans more than beating us tomorrow. Apart from the potential FIFA World Cup ticket at stake, they have an axe to grind with us. From newspapers reports, they didn’t like the reception accorded them the last time they were in Nigeria.

In defense of the NFF, they arrived a day earlier than expected and didn’t confirm their itinerary on time when they got to Lagos. They had to be booked into an hotel which they felt was belittling pending their onward journey to Calabar for the match. They also made quite a stir when they trained at a local secondary school bare pitch.

In preparation for this encounter, the Super Eagles played out a largely lackluster match in a friendly against Mexico last week. One cannot read much into the performance of our boys in that encounter. It should be a foregone conclusion that they will do the needful against Kenya tomorrow. However, football is not that straight forward and how often this has come out to be the reality.

Coach Stephen Keshi must continue to do what he’s done in the recent past and that is using the best players. Competition for places in the starting eleven must always be on merit. Having a fit, determined, committed and focused group is better than a collection of egoistic stars. The Super Eagles should always be made up of the best and the most committed available at all times.

There is no other alternative to winning tomorrow. As difficult and tasking as it would be, the Super Eagles must play like the Champions that they are and ensure that the maximum points are obtained from the Harambee Stars. The last time Nigeria visited, we ran out 2 – 3 winners and qualified for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. We can do it this time too!

Tactical and technical discipline must not be jeopardized on the altar of tiredness or any excuse for that matter. The match must be played like a final, which indeed it is. Everyone must put in not only a good shift but also a great one to ensure that Nigeria moves to the next stage in our quest to be represented in Brazil come 2014.


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