Tuesday, 5 February 2013

5 Things Nigeria need to win Mali

The Super Eagles roused
themselves last Sunday to
beat overwhelming Africa
Cup of Nations favourites,
Cote d'Ivoire 2-1 and get
a berth in the semi-final to play the Eagles of Mali.
For the second
consecutive edition, the
Malians have knocked out
the hosts in the quarter
final. They subdued Gabon last January to end up in
Joseph Yobo is
adamant that
he is fully fit now, Stephen Keshi must not
be tempted to bring him back
into the central defensive
department to replace Kenneth
Omeruo. Omeruo showed
against Cote d'Ivoire that he is ready to step into the shoes of
the captain and the most
capped Super Eagles player
ever. Keshi must take a leaf out of
the 1994 triumph where he as
captain played the opening
match and that was it until the
final when he raised the trophy
aloft with stand-in captain, Augustine Eguavoen. There is no need to be
sentimental - Omeruo is
quicker, stronger and hungrier;
all attributes that help to get
success. Moreover, there is a
growing understanding between Godfrey Oboabona and
the ADO Den Haag defender,
whom he played with at
Sunshine Stars before he
travelled abroad. SUNDAY MBA IS THE EAGLES
X-FACTOR: There was no prepared dossier
on Sunday Mba and his
unknown quality is helping to
unravel defences in South
Africa. Mba, a striker by trade
is using his striking instincts to run at defences from midfield
where he has taken over from
Nosa Igiebor. He will continue to bring that
extra to the Super Eagles at
least until the end of Afcon
2013. As an auxiliary forward
placed in a midfield role, Nigeria
at times against Cote d'Ivoire played with four strikers which
will trouble any defence line on
any given day. So as the Eagles prepare to
face familiar foes in Mali, Keshi
should continue to repose
confidence in this Nigeria
Premier League star. He cannot
be stopped as he is relatively unknown. MIKEL SHOULD CONCENTRATE
ON DEFENSIVE DUTIES: With the clock at 85:12 against
Cote d'Ivoire, Lacina Traore
thought redemption had come
when he trapped the ball inside
Nigeria's six yard box but the
next thing he knew, the ball had been knocked out for a
corner kick. That was Mikel Obi at his best.
His DNA has been fine-tuned at
Chelsea to sniff out attacks
and snuff them out - that is
where he is in his elements.
Against Cote d'Ivoire, he played from deep instigating the
Eagles' attacks and keeping a
watchful eye on Yaya Toure, he
will need to be that watchful
on Wednesday as the Eagles
take on Mali. As he allowed Mba to get
ahead of him into the final third
and the Nigerian team profited
from his selflessness. He put
the team before himself and
though he will not be remembered for that slalom-
like goal from Mba, real football
fans will remember that tackle
on Traore and there will be
smiles all around. ONAZI SHOULD KEEP HIS
PLACE AGAINST MALI: The Eagles needed pace and
energy to combat the mobility
of Yaya Toure, Salomon Kalou
and Gervinho and he supplied it
in abundance. Though he can be
reckless at times with his tackling which is a sign of his
relative inexperience, what he
brings to the middle of the
park is positive. Playing in the Serie A with SS
Lazio has helped him have the
mentality of not giving away
the ball carelessly and that has
helped the Super Eagles as
they transit from defence into attack. Though he has not scored in
the competition, he has shown
all the qualities needed to help
the Eagles achieve their goal in
South Africa. Moreover, he has
a lot of prayers backing him from The Synagogue camp as
was attested to by his
mouthing "I love you TB Joshua"
to the camera after Sunday's
IS DOING A TERRIFIC JOB: We cannot finish this
preparative piece without
asking for Efe Ambrose to
forgive us for doubting his
ability. And kudos to Keshi who
has kept faith in the Celtic defender and persisted with
him through all the criticism
justly levelled at him when his
performances were not up to
scratch. Efe has grown in leaps and
bounds in South Africa as he
grows into the right back role
and against Cote d'Ivoire on
Sunday - he literally put Kalou
and Gervinho in his back pocket while venturing forward to help
the attack. However, he needs
to make his final delivery of the
ball more inch perfect.

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