29 January 2013

Nigeria/Ethiopia: Super Eagles Face the Unthinkable Against Ethiopia

Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
Chelsea's Victor Moses scored both Nigeria's goals off penalties.

Nigeria stand on the brink of the unthinkable as they prepare to take on Ethiopia in their final Group C match at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

Failure to beat the Ethiopians, coupled with a win or draw for Zambia against pool leaders Burkina Faso, and the Super Eagles will be heading home early from these championships.

There have been warnings from within the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) this week that failure will not be tolerated, adding to the pressure for the players and the technical team.

“This team have received tremendous support from the government of Nigeria, the football federation and the good and great people of our country,” chairman of the NFF media and publicity committee, Emeka Inyama, said. “There is nothing the players or the head coach and his crew have requested.. that we have failed to provide.

“All that is left now is for the team to go all out and show high level of commitment and patriotic fervour in getting the job done.”

Chairman of the technical committee Chris Green added: “There is no reason whatsoever for the team to fail. The NFF have done their own part, done virtually everything required of the federation to prepare a team for a competition and motivate that team.

“The draws against Burkina Faso and Zambia were uncalled for, but those matches are behind us and we have a huge opportunity to put things right against the Ethiopians.”

Stephen Keshi has failed at this hurdle in the past, with Togo and Mali, and were he to do so again with Nigeria it is likely he will face the axe. The stakes are high and the coach knows it.

“It is time for action now, and this time it is win or bust. We just have to go in there and do the job the way it should be done – clinically. It has to be win and nothing else,” Keshi said.

That should mean he will field an attacking line-up against a side who have looked decent going forward, but frail at the back.

There is much less pressure on Ethiopian coach Sewnet Bishaw, though a win could see his side steam into the quarter-finals if Burkina Faso hold Zambia to a draw. What a story that would be.

"This game is a matter of dignity and keeping our heads up," Sewnet said. "I tell you we are not going to the field to defend. Defending will only give you one point so we are going to play for goals and maybe we can qualify."

It all points to a tasty encounter between two sides who know a win will probably be needed to advance. That should make for compelling viewing.

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