Stephen Keshi, coach of the Super Eagles, releases a 25-man list of players for November 16 and 18 matches against Ethiopia in Calabar and Italy in London
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Nov. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
AS the Super Eagles of Nigeria prepare for the make or mar FIFA World Cup play-off second leg match against Ethiopia on November 16, Stephen Keshi, the team’s coach, said the Super Eagles will play their normal game and attack the Ethiopians at the UJ Esuene Stadium, Calabar. He said the team has an edge over the Ethiopians after winning 2-1 in the first leg in Addis Ababa on October 13.
“We will play our normal game of holding on to the ball and keeping possession. We will try to enjoy ourselves and get the best possible result. We suffered a lot in the first leg because of the altitude in Addis Ababa. They had a plan to wear us out inside the first 30 minutes. That was why they started out the way they did. They tried to make us run all over the pitch and tire us out but these things are expected when you play away from home and in such a place. I had a frank discussion with my players at half time and we knew we had to correct the situation. We changed our tactics and the Ethiopians got tired after 70 minutes which made our job easier,” he said.
Keshi has also invited 25 players to prosecute the encounter. Significant in the list is the recall of Kenneth Omeruo, Chelsea youth team defender, who has been on the sideline following the shoulder injury he suffered during the 2013 Confederations Cup campaign in Brazil. He has also recalled Reuben Gabriel, former Kaduna United player into the team. Gabriel has been out of the team due to injury that made him miss the Africa Cup of Nations outing in South Africa last January. Keshi said he was going to use the squad to prosecute the international friendly against former world champion, Italy, in a high-profile friendly in London, barely 48 hours after the battle of Calabar.
According to Keshi, beating Ethiopia and qualifying for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil was his priority and not making the list of nominees for the 2013 FIFA Coach of the Year award. “Honestly, I don’t want to bother myself with such because it is no big deal. I don’t know how they agreed on who qualifies to be nominated or what criteria were used in the process of nomination. That’s why I say it is no big deal not being nominated. The 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying game against Ethiopia comes first for me. It is very important for me, the players, the NFF and the country. We won the first leg in Addis Ababa which was good for us but there’s still the second leg to play for. So the job is just only halfway done. At the same time, I’m also thinking of next year’s Nations Cup for players based in the league. Honestly, we have a lot of work to do on the team between now and when that competition starts. But for now, let’s concentrate on the game against Ethiopia,” Keshi said.
Henry Nwosu, former Super Eagles player, predicts that the match against Ethiopia would be tough. He said that the return leg was going to be even tougher because having lost at home, the Ethiopians have nothing to be afraid of, rather to come out and play the Super Eagles. “Stephen Keshi and his technical staff know already what they should do to guarantee victory. And they have been doing that pretty well since taking over the team and this has resulted in the successes the team and, of course, Nigeria has recorded under him. I must warn that the boys must not relent on their efforts; they should not think that because they won away in Ethiopia, victory is guaranteed again on our own soil in Calabar.
“I want to warn, it’s not going to be so, and it’s not going to be an easy game. The Ethiopians are down but should not be counted out just yet. They are coming here for the game of their lives and our boys should be aware of it. They should be prepared for the worse and toughest game in the World Cup race. We’ll beat them if we are as determined as we were in the first leg. I believe if we concentrate and remain focused and lucky as usual, we’ll beat them again but we must avoid being complacent. If we don’t do we’ll, we have ourselves to blame,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s preparations are in top gear ahead of the do-or-die match with Nigeria Sewnet Bishaw, Ethiopian coach, said despite the cancellation of an intended friendly against Burkina Faso, he was delighted that the morale of his players in camp was high.
“The mood in the camp is very positive. It was disappointing for the Burkina Faso friendly to be cancelled but sometimes these things happen. Our focus is on ahead of the Nigeria game as I always believe anything is possible and we will work on our mistakes. It will be a tough match in Nigeria but the truth is that we will fight for the entire 90 minutes as we intend to cause an upset,” he said.