3rd June, 2011
Nigeriaâ€™s Super Eagles are under immense pressure to keep pace with Group B leaders, Syli Stars of Guinea by picking maximum points in Ethiopia when they clash with Walya Antelopes on Sunday.
Nigeria have six points, a point behind Guinea, midway through the qualifiers and would have to beat the Ethiopians to, at least, stay within touching distance of the Guineans.
Nigeriaâ€™s Super Eagles cannot afford to drop any more points before they host Guinea in their final game in October, as only the group winners are assured of automatic qualification to next yearâ€™s Nations Cup in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Guinea became group leaders courtesy of their 1-0 victory, a fifth minute goal scored by Kevin Constant last September. This was a result that has continued to haunt Nigeria ever since.
And Guinea could have widened the lead at the top of the table in March, but bottom team Madagascar did Nigeria a big favour by holding the West Africans to a 1-1 draw in Antananarivo.
However, the Syli Stars are expected to win their next two home games, against Madagascar on Sunday and then in September versus third-placed Ethiopia.
This only means that the Europe-based stars of the Eagles will be expected to get a result on the road against the team they trounced 4-0 in Abuja about two months ago.
â€œWe have to win in Ethiopia,â€ declared Eaglesâ€™ coach, Samson Siasia. The former Nigerian international has dropped on-form West Bromwich Albion striker, Osaze Odemwingie for walking out on the Eagles in March, while Al Hilal of Sudan fullback Yusuf Mohammed has withdrawn due to injury.
Mohammed has been replaced by Heartland central defender Gege Soriola, who impressed at the recent sub-regional WAFU Nations Cup hosted by Nigeria.
Nigeria prepared for the trip to Addis Ababa with a prestigious friendly against Argentina in Abuja. The Eagles beat their Argiesâ€™ counterpart 4-1 and will fly out at 7pm tomorrow on a chartered flight to Ethiopia.
Ethiopia, on the other hand, lost a warm-up match 2-1 to Sudan at home under new coach Tom Saintfiet, who replaced sacked Nigerian-born Iffy Onoura.