The Real Litmus Test


Nigerians are still celebrating the 6-1 drubbing of the Lone Star of Liberia in Calabar last weekend. For obvious reasons, there’s cause for celebration after the nation picked a ticket at the expense of the Lone Star for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations to be hosted by South Africa.

Ordinarily, Liberia ought not be a country Nigeria should lose sleep about whenever they meet. But that was in the past when Nigeria’s pedigree in soccer on the African continent was lofty until the nation’s fortunes in soccer dwindled embarrassingly to a level even minnows could stand toe to toe with the Super Eagles.

Liberia thought they could come and disgrace the Super Eagles in Calabar and pick a ticket to the tournament in South Africa, but they were taught a soccer lesson they won’t forget in a hurry.

Yes, for the first time in about two decades, the Eagles gave a good account of themselves in Calabar by winning by such a wide margin. But they should not allow the outcome of that match to go into their heads. The real litmus test is in South Africa when the tournament kicks off in January next year.

As Coach Stephen Keshi rightly said, the Super Eagles will be up against formidable foes on the big stage in South Africa so they have three months to work on their flaws, especially in the defence which was breached several times by the Liberians who were not lucky to have scored more than a goal in that match.

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The building process must continue so that the Super Eagles could blend perfectly as a team to achieve the desired result. They should know that it won’t be a stroll in the park in South Africa. They must play many high profile friendly games to test their strength against other formidable opponents. And the players must show a lot of commitment in the run up to the tourney.

None of the nations that have qualified for the tournament is a push-over, not even the Cape Verde Islands that edged out almighty Cameroon on a 3-2 goals aggregate in the last qualifying matches. There could still be surprises in the tournament as teams that go there with bloated ego could get punished by seeming minnows.

Keshi should strike the iron now that it is still hot in order to parade a formidable squad that could win the cup. Nigerians have waited for too long for this trophy last won in 1994 in Tunisia. Incidentally, Keshi was the skipper of the squad, with Clemens Westerhof as technical adviser.

Kudos to sensational strikers Ahmed Musa, Ikechukwu Uche, Victor Moses, Efe Ambrose and John Mikel Obi for making Nigerians happy in a period of gloom. We expect these Super Eagles to replicate this feat on the bigger stage in South Africa next year.

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