Can the Super Eagles make Lone Stars lonely?

The Super Eagles are battle ready to beat Liberia and qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations after missing the edition in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea
By Emeka Nwani | NPL Editor

About a year ago, Nigeria and the Super Eagles were in similar circumstances. Precisely on October 8 2011, the Super Eagles needed to beat the Syli Stars of Guinea to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

The Super Eagles, coach Samson Siasia was in high spirits and wanted to beat Guinea and qualify for the Nations Cup. But Guinea forced Nigeria to a 2-2 draw and that result derailed the Super Eagles plans of playing in the tournament.

Siasia was fired a week after the match and there was talk that the team should be overhauled.

When Siasia lost his job, the Nigeria Football Federation began a search for a successor and former captain of the Super Eagles, Stephen Keshi was given the job.

Keshi started focusing on the home-based players who in his reckoning should be given a pride of place in the scheme of things in the national team.

He started by opening a long camping exercise for them and so far has been able to discover players who are ready to fill in the gap when the foriegn based players are not available. Keshi may have played so many matches, but the game against Liberia in the last match of the qualifiers for the Nations Cup is by far the most important he will play this year.

This is the match that will either save his job or Nigeria will begin to look for another coach.

In the first leg last month played in Monrovia, Liberia forced the Super Eagles to a 2-2 draw. The Eagles were running away with a victory until some players could not hold their head and that gave the Liberians the opportunity to even scores.

After one month, the second leg will come up at the UJ Esuene Stadium, Calabar.

Liberia have been playing friendly matches, training and equally boasting that they can cause an upset by beating the Super Eagles. In the last 10 years, the Liberians have played 19 away matches and have been able to draw only one of the games.

They are bad travellers and have not been able to get their acts together in their away matches. But they have prepared very well for this match, and have the backing of the Liberian Government that has promised them handsome rewards if they get the result they need in Calabar.

Thunder does not strike in the same place twice, they say. That adage is exactly what will be on the minds of the players, coaches, supporters, journalists and every Nigerian who is eager to see the team play at the next Nations Cup in South Africa next year.

Except for captain Joseph Yobo, all the invited players are in Calabar and are ready to go to war with the Liberians.

The boastful nature of the Liberians has infuriated players of the Super Eagles who are spoiling for war on Saturday.

They are not ready to waste their time boasting like the Liberians are busy doing.

Ikechukwu Uche, the striker who will surely carry a lot of burden on his shoulders on Saturday has said they will do their talking on the pitch.

"We choose to keep quiet and wait for Saturday to come. That will be the time for us to know which team is better," Uche intoned.

The Super Eagles cannot afford to fail the second time. The consequences of not attending the last edition in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea is still fresh in the minds of every football follower in Nigeria.

A football commentator, Ralph Chiedozie George told that the motivating factor for the players on Saturday is remembering that they could not attend the last edition of the Nations Cup.

"The players will remember that Guinea stopped them last year. And they will not want a repeat performance from Liberia," said Chiedozie. "Most of the players need a good performance at the next Cup of Nations in South Africa to shore up their images at their clubs and probably get new clubs when the transfer window opens again.

"So Saturday means a lot to them and other people who will benefit directly if Nigeria's flag is hoisted at the football fiesta in South Africa."

Calabar has become a good hunting ground for the Super Eagles. They have played two matches at the UJ Esuene Stadium and have won both.

The game against Liberia might not be different as the Super Eagles are set to confirm their superiority over their west African neighbours and qualify for South Africa.

The Super Eagles are confident. They are ready. And they want to put smiles on the faces of Nigerians who started praying for them after the first leg game last month in Monrovia.

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