STAND UP FOR THE AFRICAN CHAMPIONS!
Posted: Feb 11, 2013
By MUTIU ADEPOJU: I don't know how to start this piece but my readers should forgive me if my thoughts are a bit disjointed for now.
It's no more news that we are the Champions of Africa and we would be playing in the Confederations Cup in June in Rio De Janierio. Like the 'Big Boss' Stephen Keshi said, the building process continues but this performance has restored hope for a brighter future. It was a dominant performance by all standard but we should have buried the Burkinabes with the plethora of chances we created before they began to gain some confidence to attack.
Sunday Mba's goal eased the tension throughout the duration of the encounter but I was happy with the tactical way the team went about the game. This win means that Keshi becomes only the second man to win the cup as coach and player, following in the footsteps of Egyptian Mahmoud Al Gohari and secondly we now have a team in the making that can play with determination and zeal.
We need quality substitutes and I say this with utmost respect for Ikechukwu Uche who came in for the tournament in the final, we missed the fire-power of Emmanuel Emenike in the final game and we were lucky to have scaled through without him.
Overall, the Eagles were the better team even if Bance never really troubled us like I expected. It seemed a step too far for Burkina Faso coming this far but what a tournament they have had.
I think we need to savour this moment and I want to say big congratulations to the team, the technical crew and Nigerians as a whole. Like I said earlier, the Super Eagles have now reclaimed the old glory for Nigeria as a giant football nation. Well done Boys!!!
Just like they did at the last Africa Cup of Nations, Mali and Ghana will battle it out for the bronze medal today.
At Equatorial Guinea and Gabon in 2012, both sides were, just like this year, placed in the same group. Ghana won the group match 2-0 but the Malian Eagles got their revenge in the third place match, winning by the same scoreline.
Mali were completely outplayed in their 4-1 semifinal thrashing by Nigeria in Durban on Wednesday, no thanks to a disastrous first half where they were down 3-0 at half time . For me there was no way back even if history reminds me they rallied back with 11 minutes from 4-0 down to draw Angola in the opening encounter of the 2012 edition hosted by Equatorial Guniea and Gabon. Mali are slow starters in matches and that backfired against the Super Eagles who were determined to see off the Malian threat before half time.
The Eagles imposed themselves on the Malians, a disciplined play which saw their influential skipper and play-maker, Seydou Keita anonymous throughout the encounter.
It was a one way contest because they never matched the emerging champions of Africa.
Just as Mali have something to be cheerful about, the Ghanaians have been less than convincing in this tournament and they finally cracked when they were eliminated by Burkina Faso in the second semifinal. The Black Stars lost on penalties to a Burkina Faso side that faced poor refereeing decisions after the match finished 1-1 in regulation time.
The Malians looked to have run out of steam in their tournament as they seem to have played their best matches prior to their semi-final game and as for Ghana, they managed to pull through matches by grinding out results with the help of some poor officiating. Cape Verde played better than them in the quarterfinals but the Black Stars’ tournament experience saw them through.
I expect a grudge game no doubt, but Ghana will be very hungry to leave South Africa with a medal.
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT EAGLES’ OPPONENTS ON SUNDAY
By MUTIU ADEPOJU: How do I write any analysis on the Burkina Faso team without talking about their German-based striker Aristide Bance?
That guy was an all round menace to the Ghanaian team on Wednesday in the second semi-final. He created and squandered lots of chances but never gave up until he got the equaliser to puncture the Black Stars’ optimism of making it to the final of 2013 AFCON.
The Burkinabes are very fit and physical and would trouble the Eagles’ defence if our boys fail to impose their game on them immediately the battle begins on Sunday. Their immense fighting spirit powered them to their first ever final- the best thing ever to have happened to their football.
For a team that have played two successive 120 minutes in one week, Paul Put side have strength in abundance to attack the Eagles but the attacking prowess of Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses, as well as the intelligent control of the midfield by John Obi Mikel will be enough to see off their strength. Our boys should be prepared to catch them with excellent counter-attacking if we want to wear them down.
Bance will definitely be a handful for our defenders but he would have to work extra hard without the influential Jonathan Pitroipa who Nigerians including myself will be happy if CAF doesn’t rescind the red card he received in the semi-finals. I was surprised by the way he got into those positions against Ghana and that boy must be closely watched if he eventually features in the final because he is the pivot of the Stallions’ attacking line.
Pitropa was tripped by the Ghanaian defender but the Tunisian referee had an off day and was adjudged to have dived which earned him that red card. We all make mistakes and the Eagles have suffered from such calls in this competition but a good team just need to find a way of handling it which the Stallions managed to do.
Thank God Jedidi has been banned by CAF and against all odds, Burkina Faso rose above the controversies to earn themselves a place in Sunday’s Nations Cup final. I see the Super Eagles carrying the day!
THE SUPER EAGLES DID IT AGAIN!
By MUTIU ADEPOJU: Nigeria’s Super Eagles demonstrated what make them to be different from the ‘ordinary’ Eagles of Mali in yesterday’s semi-final contest in the ongoing 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.
The Super Eagles sustained their tempo against the Elephants of Ivory Coast when they came up against the Malian side and were rewarded with four goals even if I felt it could have been more on a day Patrice Carteron's side failed to click.
Before halftime, the match was already decided. A third goal off an Emmanuel Emenike's free-kick that took a deflection off Momo Sissoko put Nigeria at a massive advantage. With no other choice than to attack in the second half, Mali's defence was absent when Ahmed Musa beat the offside trap and had no one but the keeper to beat on his way to recording the fourth goal.
The first goal made things easy for the Eagles and they took good advantage of the lapses noticed in the make-up of Mali team. The Eagles are now closer to win the title and their overall performance is something Nigerians will continue to savour for a long time to come.
Mikel is now showing what he is up to after being paired with some brilliant and very athletic midfield partners. Some of his passes have been delirious and Nigerians are beginning to appreciate that he is a great lad if he can be used in his preferred position. A good example was his defence splitting pass to Ahmed Musa to beat the offside trap for Nigeria's fourth goal. Another player that has impressed me thus far in all honestly is our stand-in-skipper Vincent Enyeama who made two brilliant saves to deny the Malians any hope of a comeback.
We all remember how Keshi's Malian side trailed Angola 4-0 in the group stages before netting four times in the final 11 minutes to salvage a remarkable draw that was never going to happen with Enyeama in goal. But the Eagles of Mali were determined not to go down without a fight and they created a number of decent opportunities in the closing stages. They could only find the back of the net once, Diarra slotting home Cheick Diabate's cut-back, but it was Nigeria who were left to celebrate at the full-time whistle.
Super Eagles are now reclaiming the old glory as a giant football nation. One last "hurray" boys; let win this cup again.
WHICH OF THE EAGLES WILL TRIUMPH TODAY?
By MUTIU ADEPOJU: Nigeria's Super Eagles and Black Stars of Ghana remain unbeaten in the ongoing AFCON and they are likely to maintain that status today in their semi-final clashes.
While Nigeria will be hoping to edge the Eagles of Mali, the Black Stars will also want to outshine the Stallions of Burkina Faso to set up a tantalising final contest between the two arch-rivals from West Africa sub-region come Sunday.
However, the Super Eagles must replicate their quarter-final form if they are to keep their dreams of playing in Sunday's final alive. Coach Stephen Keshi will come up against some of his former players he coached at this tournament when Angola hosted it in 2010 and that may be to his team's advantage. And now that Nigerians are happy with the Eagles' last performance, they will need more of such display to keep their fans all over the world and particularly Nigeria's soccer fans behind them for a very long time to come.
Like they did on Sunday against Cote d’Ivoire, total commitment and determination will be their main driving force while Mali will also be poised to do the same thing to Nigeria since they are now seeing themselves as underdogs. The Malians have shown that they can fight back just as they did against South Africa when they came from a goal down to eliminate the hosts via penalty shoot-out. Keita no doubt will be the man to watch closely but the duo of Modibo Maiga and Momo Sissoko should get proper attention as well. The Super Eagles must therefore be careful whenever they are defending set pieces. Most times, they lose concentration or make elementary mistakes- most especially when they are on the back foot and this might cost us dearly if they repeat such error today against a Malian side that have already replicated their last year’s form by reaching the semi-final.
Hopefully, we will celebrate another triumph today!
IT’S EAGLES OF WITS VS EAGLES OF POWER!
By MUTIU ADEPOJU: After overcoming Ivory Coast against all odds in the quarter-finals on Sunday, Super Eagles are now top favourites to clinch the trophy. Should they progress against a Malian side that have relied on brute and force, they might have to contend with the Black Stars of Ghana for the title. It will be an interesting encounter with both teams standing a chance to progress but with the attacking line that Nigeria will parade, Stephen Keshi boys look the most likely side to zoom into the final.
Mali repeated their performance from the last edition when they knocked out this year’s hosts South Africa in the quarter-finals last Saturday via a penalty shoot-out. In 2012, hosts Gabon faced the same ignominy at the same stage of the tournament in the hands of the Malians. However, the Eagles of Mali failed to clinch the trophy as they ended up winning bronze; an outcome they would like to change this time around when they come face-to-face with the rejuvenated Super Eagles tomorrow.
Seydou Keita has been the leading light for Mali so far in this tournament and he must be stopped tomorrow. The captain has led from the front in all of the matches and has scored two goals. The former Barcelona midfielder possesses an excellent passing ability and he has been inspiring his younger colleagues to take his country to where they are now in the tournament.
Though demoralised by the ongoing civil crises in their country, the performance of the national team so far has given their countrymen something to cheer.
Having relied too much on physical approach in all the games they have played to progress to this stage of the competition, Mali will find it extremely difficult to play against a team with flair which I believe the Eagles have in abundance.
They will likely field a 4-5-1 formation with a lone striker upfront and crowded midfield but with what I saw against Cote D'Iviore, they are not likely to find it easy against our boys. But the Super Eagles must sustain the tempo and retain the hunger if they are to scale the Malian hurdle to get to the final for the first time in 13 years.
The Malians always find it difficult to cope with counter attacking prowess of teams with fast attackers and so they might engage in a very physical encounter to stop our players in this duel again. But it's going to be our own Super Eagles all the way- I am sure of that!
WHAT A PERFORMANCE
By MUTIU ADEPOJU: Contrary to expectations, the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire will not be part of the final four of the 2013 Africa Nations Cup. Our Super Eagles will after their 2-1 victory over them on Sunday at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg have set up a semi-final match-up with the Eagles of Mali as the most anticipated quarter-final match between Nigeria and Ivory Coast delivered everything except perhaps the result expected by the doubters.
First-half sluggishness on the part of the highly overrated Ivoriens and a second half winner that is in contention for goal of the tournament means Ivory Coast "golden generation" will leave with nothing as they were kicked out in the quarter-finals for the second time in three editions of AFCON. The Elephants lacked the spirit and passion to defeat the most underrated team that will now be playing in the semi-finals on Wednesday and there was no illusion that they will be prepared for that challenge. For all the Elephants' pedigree, the Eagles showed real aggression with Emmanuel Emenike winning a free kick as early as the ninth minute. After that, Victor Moses swung the ball but Ideye Brown was unable to keep his header down. Ideye deserves a goal in this tournament if you ask me and like I stated in my previous articles, I was so sure that the two attackers will trouble the Ivorians’ defence if they are unleashed on the Elephants and I think Keshi has been reading my thoughts very well.
Yesterday's win could be seen as the turning point for the Eagles if they continue with such discipline they displayed on the night.
I have to congratulate the players and technical crew because in recent past, I have never seen the Eagles so determined like they were against Cote D'Iviore. They showed real determination to re-write their names in the heart of many but for me, the job is not yet accomplished because it's not yet Uhuru as a tricky tie against Mali now lie in wait come Wednesday.
They all did well and particularly, I was impressed with Sunday Mba's level of confidence. He is a good player, no doubt, but for him to take on about six Ivoriens before unleashing that shot which was deflected into the net by Sol Bamba was audacious. For me, CAF was right to pick him as the man- of- the- match.
However, the Eagles conceded another goal because they lost concentration after Didier Drogba had deceived the referee to win a foul. There wouldn’t be too many chances at this stage of the competition and our attackers must learn to take their chances while defenders must not lose focus. We still have a tough game against Mali but I'm convinced that we will scale the Keita’s hurdle.
Now, a whole new tournament is starting for the Eagles. If that is the case, Keshi's team still has one more game to win before thinking of the final.
Till I write you again. I want to seize this opportunity to congratulate the entire team and the coaching staff on this memorable win. The Eagles are still in flight after banishing the Elephants' AFCON hoodoo.
IT’S A CONTEST BETWEEN THE EAGLES AND THE ELEPHANTS
By MUTIU ADEPOJU: As the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations reach the knock-out stage where the big boys are expected to show their true colours, I will like to look at the key performers in the Ivory Coast team who the Super Eagles must shut out if they must continue to live their dreams.
Coach Sabri Lamouchi will need these four players to perform to the best of their abilities if his Elephants are to surge past the Super Eagles.
Who joins Didier Drogba on the list? The Ivory Coast find themselves with high-profile players in all positions but getting a goalkeeper is something they’ve been struggling with for years now.
Barry has never looked too comfortable in goal for the Elephants though it has to be noted he didn’t concede a single goal in last year’s competition until the final against Zambia.
He is one player the Eagles must target if they are to cause any upset because he’ll be thrust into the spotlight once more and he will be eager to overcome another heartache of penalty shoot-out loss like it happened in 2012 final game.
Secondly, as laughable as Gervinho’s performances for Arsenal are, he’s actually an important player for Les Elephants. If the former Lille player is allowed the time and space to make the decisions that don’t come quickly to him, the Eagles will be making him a prime creator and scoring threat from the flanks.
The Ivorian team have lots of options on the wings with Max Gradel and Salomon Kalou in the team but Gervinho still holds the ace as can be seen in some of the games the team have played so far.
Thirdly, stop Yaya Toure and the Elephants will lose their power. Yaya Toure is the best player in this Ivory Coast team and his teammates will look up to him to force matters in their favour when they come up against a spirited Eagles on Sunday.
With Cheick Tiote and Didier Zokora forming a solid midfield pivot, Toure may well be asked to fulfill a more expansive and attacking role for Les Elephant and we should expect to see him flying up and down the field at will with his big physique if not well countered. Unfortunately the Eagles will be missing Fengor Ogude in this combative duel with the reigning African Footballer of the Year and it remains to be seen how they will cope in his absence.
EAGLES MUST FLY
By MUTIU ADEPOJU: The Super Eagles certainly understand the magnitude of the task that awaits them on Sunday.
Taking on Cote D'Ivoire at this stage will be a different ball game- it is a different mentality, everything will be different because it is not going to be the same as playing against Ethiopia or the other two teams they played against in the group stage.
It is a match some are saying will be worthy of a final. Nigeria's group stage clash against Zambia was talked up in the same way but it ended up in a draw.
Keshi had to wait until the match against Ethiopia to record his first win as a coach at the ANC and his looks after the Moroccan referee blew the final whistle said it all. A massive relief for the 'Big Boss'.
Keshi has been extremely battered with criticism for his selection after leaving out the likes of Obafemi Martins, Kalu Uche, Taye Taiwo and Peter Odemwingie from his squad - a move that resulted in public debate as some hailed his decision in trying out younger players and
some home-based stars. He can however take solace from the performance of the team so far, particularly during the match against Ethiopia. Although, Nigeria still have a long way to go, Keshi must be mindful of how he lines up his squad on Sunday if he wants to take something out of this tournament.
The first quarter-final game between Ghana and Cape Verde looks easy for the Black Stars on paper but the team from the Islands at this point have nothing to lose which would make the tie an interesting one; while Mali who finished third at the last edition must put their acts together if they must surpass their past achievements when they come up against hosts South
The game against Togo and Burkina Faso may go either way because of the depleted team the Hawks must have to line out on Saturday. Some highly erratic refereeing in the last game between Togo and Tunisia did not speak well of African football and Togo were unlucky not to have won that game. Those African referees are going to kill this competition with their sheer incompetence because we have seen some terrible calls in the group games and Nigeria have been on the receiving ends on two occasions. I hope CAF committee in charge of officials will review their performances ahead of the knock-out round.
IT'S MOSES' SHOW AS EAGLES LAND IN THE QUARTERS
The Eagles finally scaled the hurdle of quarter-final berth with a 2-0 win against the Ethiopians last night but in a very nervous way if you ask me.
It was not an excellent performance on the night but good enough to set up a quarter-final clash against tournament favorites Cote D'Ivoire on Sunday. We must improve in all departments if we must keep alive any hope of always winning the Nations Cup in the absence of our arch-rivals Cameroon. The Indomitable Lions failed to qualify for the 1980 and 1994 edition of the competition which saw the team triumphed on both occasions.
Impossible is nothing like they all say and the Ivoriens players are not players from heaven. Cote D'Ivoire won't play as the Ethiopians did, so the Eagles must ensure that they shut up all the mazy runs from the African footballer of the Year Yaya Toure and co.
Having lost to them by a lone goal in our last two games in the AFCON, I believe this team could make amends if they are disciplined after taking the lead.
If Nigeria is to go far in this tournament, we need to work on the defence line beacuse they are not just there yet after three games. They looked perfect against the Ethiopians because they did not concede a goal but their transition in joining the attack was too slow and whenever they did move up they were very predictable and lacked accurate passes to our attackers to utilize in front of goal.
My worries going into Sunday's game remains how the team will cope with the trickery of Salomon Kalou and Gervinho on the flanks where I believe our players haven't been at their best.
Just as the defence line, the midfield equally lacked pace in supporting the attack in all the games we have played so far.
We have qualities going forward and I believe Ideye and Emenike partnership should be given a chance to trouble a nervy Kolo Toure in the heart of the Ivorien defence.
And what more could be said about our own holy Moses whose calmness and bravery gave us a crucial win against Ethiopia. Nigeria have got to continue upping the tempo in midfield when they face the duo of Yaya Toure and Didier Zokora in the middle of the pack.
Such was a disappointment for the reigning champions Zambian who were undefeated in tournament but still failed to qualify from group stage.
As well as avoiding the rampant Ivorians, Burkina Faso's place at the Group C summit also means they will return to their base in Nelspruit for Sunday's quarter-final. But their opponents will be determined today when Group D reaches its climax.
The group stages will end with a straight shootout between Tunisia and Togo for the final quarter-final spot.
Algeria have already been eliminated after they lost both their matches and will only have pride to play for against Ivory Coast who will want to keep their form intact heading into the knockouts.
For the Elephants who claimed to have learned a lot from past mistakes, We will wait and see how they will navigate it this time around. Togo got the better of the Algerians in their last match while Tunisia have been scratchy, although they are the side that are carrying the bulk of North African hopes and will want to do that well today.
EAGLES DESTINY IN THEIR HANDS!
Today's game against Ethiopia will definitely be a battle for survival for the Super Eagles at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.
First, the Eagles must win to maintain their record of making it to the next round in the competition since 1984. They must defy all odds by winning their last group game and also help end their coach's quest for a first win in this tournament after 9 games.
Victory for the Super Eagles will also be the simplest way to ensure they get through although all four teams stand a chance of advancing depending on permutations. Ethiopia, who were impressive in their opener against Zambia and have a massive support base in South Africa, need to beat Nigeria and hope Burkina Faso beat or draw with Zambia for example.
It's still an open group in some regards and should provide an interesting set-up for mini-battles but I'm optimistic that the Eagles will go through.
Also in the other group game, defending champions, Zambia, are at risk of being eliminated from the first round.
Burkina Faso stunned Nigeria when they scored a late equaliser and then romped their way through Ethiopia to earn the tournament's biggest win so far- a 4-0 victory.
They only need a draw against the Chipolopolo to advance while the title holders should look for outright win to be certain of their spot in the last eight.
With two groups already concluded and the quarter-finalists emerged, Cape Verde have another giants to slay in Ghana who were emphatic in their final group game against Niger in yesterday's encounter, While Mali who finished finished third in last year's competition put in an expert display tonight to frustrate DR Congo from getting the maximum points from the encounter. The Eagles did not lose their composure after a shaky start and with Seydou Keita, whose late goal against Niger proved crucial, they have one of the finest African midfielders in recent history to rely on when they face hosts South Africa come Saturday.
With the Black Stars building momentum for the knockout stages, can Nigeria lay down a marker of their own today?
A DRAW WHICH FAVOURS NOONE
Eagles Resort To Calculations To Qualify For Q-finals
Indeed it is a 1-1 draw - which doesn't really favour either Zambia or Nigeria.
But Zambia will certainly be the happier team because as the reigning Champions, of the competition they still stand a chance of qualifying from the group courtesy of referee Ghead Grisha’s dubious call.
I'm 100% sure that Grisha's call was wrong because Mayuka goes down in the softest of challenges which was given but that erroneous call could have been equally averted if Onazi had headed the ball out to safety than participating in the body tussle which has raised this controversy again.
It’s so painful putting down this piece but it’s my job for the next two weeks. There are lots of questioning from this encounter because we still played the same way we did from the first game against Burkina Faso.
We had a chance from the spot which wasn't converted by Mikel but worth pointing out is that Nigeria's opener was all down to his tenacity to dispossess Mayuka with a strong challenge before feeding Emmanuel Emenike and letting him do the rest. So don't blame Mikel much for the draw.
Now it's time to get your permutations right because I'm still hopeful we still stand a very good chance of qualifying from this group.
With Burkina Faso having beaten Ethiopia 4-0 despite playing with 10 men for the remaining 30 minutes, Nigeria stand to benefit from that as we won't have to worry of whatever happens between Burkina Faso and Zambia in the last group match.
The Stallions are suddenly favourites as they now have one foot in the quarter finals and all they need to do against Zambia is to at least get a draw which will give them five points.
However, Zambia have the hardest task as they will need an outright win to be sure of the knockout ticket and it won't be easy against the motivated Stallions. Whatever happens, it won't affect Nigeria's chances provided the Eagles win.
All the Eagles have to do now is to simply beat Ethiopia to move to 5 points which will be enough to book the knockout stage ticket either as group leader or runners up. As it is now, the Eagles indeed have their fate in their hands going into the last group game.
However, anything short of an outright win could see the Eagles book an early flight back to Nigeria. But I'm backing the Eagles to come good against Ethiopia by picking the maximum points.
Now, the Eagles are trully condemned to win and win they must. By the way, I don't think I'm asking for too much!
OPERATION ZAMBIA MUST FALL
For the Super Eagles of Nigeria, they must have their backs on the wall today as they come up against the defending champions Zambia in the first group C encounter in Nelspruit. Both opening matches in this group ended in 1-1 draw with Zambia pegged back by Ethiopia while Nigeria suffered a very late setback in their duel with Burkina Faso.
So the two favourites in Group C will have their hands full in this game so as to take something out of it, otherwise, a defeat for either side today could put them in real danger of dropping out of the competition from the group stage. That would be a disaster for any of them as Zambia would want to prove that their win last year was not a fluke and Nigeria is seeking to make amends for failing to qualify for the last edition of the tournament.
Coach Stephen Keshi has been tasked with returning Nigeria to her glory days and winning a place in the final for the first time since 2000 should be his main objective and a good place to start would be victory over the Copper Bullets today . It will be tough but I'm favouring Nigeria to take all three points today, Insha Allah.
With this group likely to go down to the wire, any loser here will have plenty to do to make the last eight and I don't see Nigeria losing to the Chipolopolo. Forget my nationality, the Eagles have always shown class when the chips are down and I'm not expecting anything short of total victory today. Before putting this piece together for you my fans, I called up Ike Shorunmu to really know the mood in camp now ahead of the encounter before I get and his response inspired my headline for the day… ‘Operation Zambia Must Fall’.
Again, I am optimistic because of the fact that the Zambians were some way below their best against a highly spirited, well organized Ethiopian side last Monday.
Secondly, the Eagles would not only want to correct their mistakes of the opening game, but also give their coach a reason to smile at the end of 90 minutes as he clocks 51. From me here, ‘Big Boss’ Happy Birthday in arrears. Although, the Ethiopians were reduced to ten men when their keeper was sent off after 35 minutes and Zambia opened the scoring just before the half time whistle, Chipolopolo were unable to take advantage and conceded an equaliser.
Zambia coach, Herve Renard, fanned the flames for this one prior to the commencement of the tournament when he remarked that this is the worst Nigerian team he has watched. Call that a mind-game? I bet you fans, the Eagles will shut him up with goals today but don't forget to reach for your calculator if the result goes the other way.
However, the Eagles must defend and attack together as a team for the entire duration of the encounter if we are to get anything from this game because the Zambians will also be revved up for this game. The most recent meeting between the sides came in a friendly match staged in Nigeria back in November 2011 and the Super Eagles were 2-0 winners. The teams also met in the quarter finals of the 2010 AFCON finals in Angola, the game ended in a 0-0 stalemate before the Eagles held their nerve to prevail in the penalty shoot -out.
The second game of the day will see Ethiopia square up against Burkina Faso and I fancy Burkina Faso nicking this one if it doesn't end up in a draw.
In yesterday's game, Ghana truly deserved to win the encounter though the Malians had every justification to feel cheated after referee Noumandiez Doue failed to give Blacks Stars goalie Dauda a red card after he handled the ball outside the box. The Eagles had their chances to restore parity but failed woefully. It's interesting how this group will end because Mali, Niger and DR Congo still stands a mathematical chance of qualifying from this group, but I still stick to my prediction of Ghana and Mali advancing to the next stage.
THE PRESSURE IS HERE AGAIN!
It is all square between the teams after they all drew in group C yesterday. Holders Zambia and traditional heavyweights Nigeria both endured underwhelming starts to the competition. Burkina Faso side were like all their teams that did not win in their previous 17 successive Nations Cup games but Ethiopia with their patient passing play really impressed me on the day.
I can understand our players feelings now but they only have themselves to blame for that stoppage time equaliser. Efe Ambrose struggled at right-back in a pre-tournament friendly against Cape Verde and never looked comfortable there tonight before his red card problem and there will be serious headache on that side for Stephen Keshi ahead of Friday's clash against Zambia.
The Eagles started very well and got a deserved goal but were punished for their usual lax approach against Burkina Faso. The Super Eagles never got out of second gear against an inferior opponent and were just asking for the equaliser to come in.
Though we used the spaces well, we didn't fight back enough whenever we lost the ball and that was evident when Onazi who was supposed to be the holding midfielder was caught out of position on the left flank. We should have kept the ball there for the final whistle.
The Eagles played without any intensity and invited Burkina Faso to come on. The opponents looked an inferior side throughout the game but they never gave up and made the most of Nigeria's invitation to level things up. Now the pressure is here again but I believe we can overcome it against Zambia. But we must not repeat this tactical indiscipline again if we are to qualify for the quarter-finals stage of the competition.
The only problem with the Super Eagles is that they chose to sit back after the opening goal and refused to go for the hammer after their advantage. Ethiopia on the other hand showed against holders Zambia in the previous match that they can be dangerous tactically. It is all to play for now in this group C. See you next time!
By Mutiu Adepoju
Today on Complete Sports
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