3rd June, 2012
It was a close shave for Nigeria’s Super Eagles, who missed several scoring chances before Ike Uche made up with an 80th minute winner to seal victory against hard-fighting Namibia in their Brazil 2014 World Cup qualifier on Sunday.
The Eagles created a couple of chances in the match played at the 15,000-capacity Esuene Stadium in Calabar, Cross River State, but they failed to finish them off with Ike Uche the worst culprit, while Namibia goalkeeper Vigil was also outstanding as he stopped Nigeria from finding the back of his net.
At a stage in the match which was Coach Stephen Keshi’s second competitive match in charge of the Eagles, Calabar fans who had become restive began to chant “all we are saying give us one goal.”
The ‘Big Boss’ Keshi himself had become perplexed, as he stood for 90 minutes and watched in awe how his strikers missed chances after chances.
Uche, however, came good when it mattered most, as he fired the winner in a goal mouth scramble to send the crowd into wild jubilation.
The first half of the match, watched by Governor Liyel Imoke and some top dignitaries, who included former captain of the Eagles, Nwankwo Kanu, produced no goals with the Nigerian players dominating the match.
The Namibians, who were more determined, confident and enterprising, came back forcefully in the second half testing goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama on several occasions. An under pressured Keshi brought in Ahmed Musa to replace John Utaka in the 60th minute, with the hope that this would change the potency of the Nigerian attacking force, but Musa’s first header was off target.
The Namibians took some confidence out of the qualifier by holding out against the hosts till about 10 minutes to the final whistle.
Ike Uche, who scored the goal emerged the man of the match and won Tom Tom’s prize of $5,000 and was presented with the prize by Governor Imoke of Cross River State.
Former Nigerian international, Victor Ikpeba, an analyst on SuperSport TV said that it was unfortunate that the Eagles had to struggle to get the maximum points out of the game.
He warned that the team must ensure that they score goals in their remaining matches if they want to qualify for the Brazil 2014 World Cup finals.
“I just want them to take the three points from the match to their next game,” he said.
Joe Erico, a former Eagles’ assistant coach, described the performance as brilliant. “It was long that I witnessed such a performance by the Eagles.
“It shows that they are really committed, even though we threw away a lot of scoring chances; their efforts were eventually crowned with the goal.”
The coach said the team should keep up the good work, stressing that “the Eagles should start preparation for the next match in earnest”. According to him, the several chances lost by Ike Uche should not deter him.
Jossy Lad, former Super Falcons coach, also applauded the team, saying: “It was a good start. He, however, urged the Eagles to convert their chances in future matches.
“I am happy at the lone goal because it was a crucial match and not a friendly,” he said, and added that the Eagles’ determination showed that they did not approach the match with levity.
Fanny Amun, a former NFA Secretary-General, said: “the wish of the people has happened. We were lucky to win. I observed that 70 per cent of the re-building was accomplished. I salute Uche who scored for the Eagles.
“He (Uche) was calm and patient after he had lost many scoring chances.
In other matches played today, South Africa failed to capitalise on home advantage when it drew with Ethiopia 1-1. Niger played goalless with Gabon and Zimbabwe lost at home to Guinea.
Benin beat Mali 1-0. Togo and Libya also played goalless, like Angola and Uganda.