22 January 2013

Nigeria/Burkina Faso: Fear of Failure Haunts Super Eagles

Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Emmanuel Emenike of Nigeria, no. 9, celebrates his opening goal in Friday's encounter with reigning champions Zambia. Five minutes before the end of the match, Nigeria conceded a penalty, and Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene equalised for the champions.

There is always wide-spread consternation when things go against Nigeria, so passionate and loyal is their extensive fan base.

Their 1-1 draw with Burkina Faso in their 2013 Africa Cup of Nations opener on Monday was therefore treated like a defeat, with much finger-pointing from all and sundry.

The Burkinabe got their equaliser with the final kick of the game after Nigeria had earlier been reduced to 10 men following a sending-off of Efe Ambrose. The Super Eagles had also earlier spurned a number of goalscoring chances to kill the game.

The draw instantly turned the mood from one of barely-contained celebration to fear of failure in a group from which Nigeria had been expected to advance. Veteran defender Joseph Yobo admits they are now feeling the heat.

"We failed to convert our chances to score the second goal, which would have sealed victory for us. We are now in a must win situation in the second game against Zambia,” Yobo said.

“We know what to expect in the game because they are the defending champions and we respect them for that, they know what we can do as well and know what we will come for in the match. It will be a difficult game because both teams need the three points.

“We just have to win the game to move up. We did well against Burkina Faso, but conceding in the very last second was disappointing. We have to show character in next game against Zambia."

Coach Stephen Keshi admits he has a job keeping his players’ chins up, but says he was still proud of their effort.

"I am not going to let anything bring us down. I'm very proud of the boys, who did everything I wanted of them,” Keshi says. "This game is gone and the next game against Zambia is very, very important. I'll pick up the players and motivate them."

Burkina Faso coach Paul Put was delighted with his side’s display. A win against Ethiopia in their next fixture on Friday, and they will have one foot in the knockout stages.

"All four teams have one point so everything is open," Put said. "The performance today showed who Burkina are – we have quality in the team.

"We were missing some key players so I am very proud of what we did. I was confident of getting a point against Nigeria. This was a very good result for us and I am looking forward to the second game against Ethiopia."

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