Former Green Eagles goalkeeper, 'Man Mountain' Emmanuel Okala has predicted that the home-based Super Eagles will have an easy game against Sudan in their semifinal cracker this evening at the on-going African Nations Championship in Morocco. But another former international, Tajudeen Disu believes that would be possible only if the coaches worked on the midfield and defence to make the areas formidable.
Tall lanky Okala, a member of the 1980 Green Eagles' African Nations Cup winning squad told The Guardian from his base in Awka, Anambra State yesterday, where he is serving as Senior Special Adviser on Sports to Governor Willy Obiano, that although the Sudanese might prove stubborn, the Eagles will fly higher at the end of the match.
"I have been following the progress of the home-based Eagles since the commencement of the competition in Morocco, and I am very optimistic Nigeria will win the trophy. The beginning of the tournament was not too good for the boys, but having survived till now I don't see Sudan stopping them. All the Eagles need to do is to take the game to the Sudanese half immediately after the kick off. No two games are the same, I expect the Eagles to approach this semifinal with a different formation.
"Sudan has a good league, which has produced champions in the CAF Champions League and the Confederations Cup, but our boys look determined to make name for themselves, particularly in this year of the World Cup. As a veteran in football, my advise to the Eagles is to play good attacking pattern against Sudan. They must not allow Sudan to dictate the pace of the game. The Nigerian league has improved in the last three years, and I expect our players to use this game to prove a point that we have good players, who can hold their own in the absence of the foreign-based," he stated.
Okala also spoke on his duty as SSA Sports to Governor Obiano, revealing that the Anambra State government was on the verge of floating a football club. "The plan is on an advanced stage. The governor is doing everything possible to turn around sports in Anambra for good. From football to athletics, wrestling, boxing, judo, basketball, weightlifting and others, Nigerians will be very happy by the time Governor Obiano finishes his programmes for sports development in Anambra State," he enthused.
Also speaking on the game, Tajudeen Disu advised the Coach Salisu Yusuf-tutored Eagles to brace up for a tough semifinal, saying getting to the final of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) will not be an easy task.
Disu advised Yusuf to work on the defence and the midfield, which have been Nigeria's major headache in the tournament, adding, "I think our goalkeeper so far has proved himself at the CHAN. He did very well in the quarterfinal against Angola because without his efforts, we would have been talking about something else now. But I still believe he can improve on himself."
"The players in the defence need to get themselves together, especially the central defence, as most times they lose focus. The right full back and the left full back should sit up so that they can get themselves right and book a place in the final. The players should approach the game with their very possible best and should not take the Sudanese for granted," he said.
The former junior international, who said the midfielders were not doing enough to give the necessary help to both the attackers and the defenders, said, "once you do not have good midfield, there will not be enough supply to the attackers, which means you cannot score. The midfield is supposed to give the team a direction and once that is lacking, it leaves the team in disarray and I know that the players can do better.
"The team must not be complacent as victory in tomorrow's game must be achieved. Victory in football is not attained until after the final whistle. What happened to Angola must not happen against us," he stated.