20th March, 2013
Reigning African champions, the Super Eagles of Nigeria will on Saturday at the UJ Esuene Stadium return to action in a Brazil 2014 World Cup qualifier against the Harambee Stars of Kenya.
The qualifier would be the first match for the team since they won the African Cup of Nations title in South Africa. All eyes will be on the team to show African champions in them against the Kenyan team and prove critics wrong that winning the Nations Cup was not a fluke.
Very few Nigerians never believed Stephen Keshi-led team would emerge eventual champions of the Nations.
With the triumph, the expectation is that they would consolidate on the feat in South Africa by having an easy ride over the East Africans, who are known for the strengths on long distance races.
On paper the Kenyans are no match for the Eagles especially at this period when so much is expected from them. They must how the world that they have arrived by embarrassing their opponents with rain of goals.
As the African champions, the onus lies on the technical crew to show the world that they can spur the team to do more when the chips are down.
As the Eagles come out from the dugout on Saturday, football pundits are of the view that Kenya should pose no threat to the Eagles’ quest to qualify for the World Cup if their performance at the last Nations Cup are anything to go.
Having beaten the favourites, the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire in their quarter-final of the Nations Cup, it is believed that the team should remain unstoppable, but Keshi said he is still rebuilding his team as more works still need to be done for the Eagles to get to their peak.
When it comes to football, Kenya sleep in the dark ages compared to their Nigerian opponents, but there are no minnows in football.
Drawing a comparison between both teams, former Harambee Stars player, Sammy Sholei, reckons that he does not foresee his country beating the Eagles because both teams are at poles.
According to him, “if you look at the physicality of our footballers and those of Nigeria, you’ll see a total difference. We look smaller and that would Nigeria the edge over us”.
As the countdown to the tie continues with Keshi deciding to test some fresh legs, it is also pertinent to note there is a cold war currently going on regarding the availability of Emmanuel Emenike of Spartak Moscow, who has alleged that the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF has forgotten him.
Emenike missed the final against Burkina Faso as a result of hamstring injury and he has come out to say that the NFF have not done enough to know how he is recuperating after he picked an injury on national duty. But the NFF replied that he is being meticulous with the truth.
Babatunde Michael of Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine has been called up to replace Emenike, while Nnamdi Oduamadi A.S Varese 1910 FC of Italy and Obafemi Martins of Seattle Sounders of USA are making a return to the Eagles. John Ogu who plays for Academica de Coimbra in Portugal is also expected to be handed his first debut for his fatherland.
The Kenyans may not have the best of players but they have in their squad, Celtic of Scotland midfielder, Victor Wanyama, who could spoil Nigeria’s show on Saturday.
Wanyama had been identified as a doubt for the game after he pulled a thigh muscle during Celtic’s UEFA Champions League defeat at Juventus on 6 March.
Wanyama has now shrugged off the injury and is included in the Harambee Stars squad alongside captain, Dennis Oliech.
Meanwhile, Nigeria defender, Azubuike Egwuekwe does not believe Wanyama’s presence will rob the Super Eagles of victory on Saturday.
“He (Wanyama) is a good player but nobody in our team is worried by his inclusion. We also have a lot of excellent players in Nigerian team too. I am sure we will win whether or not Wanyama plays,” Egwuekwe said.
Will the Eagles dim the Stars or the Stars will shine over the Eagles? This would be decided on Saturday.