Nigeria’s national team will get through the obstacles of the defending champions, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia if they do their homework very well going into the Afcon in JanuaryANALYSIS
By Babajide Alaka | Deputy Editor
When the draws were made on Wednesday for the groupings of the next Nations Cup, Nigeria’s Super Eagles got drawn with defending champions, Zambia, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia in Group C.
For those who really know the game, this group should not be a problem for the Super Eagles – not saying that they will beat all their opponents black and blue, no; but they are capable of beating all these countries – only if the team prepares well and they eschew every grain of personal pride.
|THE BURKINA FASO CHALLENGE
The first match for the Eagles and the case here will be how passionate and committed and ready Coach Stephen Keshi and his boys are for some rough play. The Burkina Faso team are a bunch of big guys – in the mould of Senegal so the game plan must be well thought out. They will rely a lot on free kicks around the box and Jonathan Pitroipa, a continuous motion dribbler who switches flanks and is prone to fall over easily will be their main source of these freekicks.
In attack they will be relying heavily on the brute power of 31-year old Moumouni Dagano, who will get his head on many balls but the Nigerian defenders must get the second. Dagano has scored 24 goals in 54 appearances for his country.
In midfield they will have the experience of Marseille’s utility player, Charles Kabore and for a team that lacks real quality in the centre of the pack, Kabore provides stability.
The real challenge that the Eagles will face is complacency and a lack of commitment so they will only lose this match if they are not well prepared. For the record, Nigeria and Burkina Faso have played 12 grade A matches and the Burkinabes have not won any and that win should not come in South Africa.
|BEATING THE DEFENDING CHAMPIONS
The defending champions have always proven tough for the Super Eagles but in their last three encounters, the Eagles have had victories over the Chipolopolo.
The greatest assest that the defending champions possess is their coach, Hervé Renard, who led them to that historic 2012 win over Cote d'Ivoire on penalties. Having trained under the legendary Claude Leroy, he knows how to organise his teams to get the best out of them.
Even though the team does not boast of stars, they have a togetherness that has become a weapon. Their resolve against Didier Drogba’s Cote d’Ivoire in the 2012 final was a delight to see. They are very fit, committed and passionate so the Eagles must bring all these attributes to the table. The 11 players that will confront Zambia must be ready to lose some toe nails in order to get the victory.
They will be led by Christopher Katongo, their captain who symbolises the fight that is this team. He never gives up as a forward, tigerish in the tackle and with an eye for goal.
The China-based player will be supported by another player based in China, Isaac Chansa, who scores vital goals from his midfield position. Also quick-silver forward, Emmanuel Mayuka will be a weapon even though he is not getting as many minutes in the Premier League with Southampton – that could have dulled his edge a bit.The hero of the 2012 win, goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene is also going to be a factor for the defending champions. A very unconventional goal tender, he is always at his best with the Chipolopolo.
|DO NOT TOY WITH ETHIOPIA
The Walya Antelopes have a lot of passion and away from their fortress in Addis Ababa, they lack the experience and the star-quality that will give them some leverage. There will be more opportunities to get a result against this team which is making a re-appearance at the Nations Cup after an absence of 31 years.
Nigeria played them last year and got a win and a draw but this situation is drastically different. Keshi has all the elements to get a very good result against the Ethiopians but as has been mentioned before, complacency must be banished from the Super Eagles lexicon.
They must concentrate on whatever country is before them and make sure that they get the positive result that they are capable of.
They showed with the five goals conceded away to Sudan that they are not very solid and the Eagles must capitalise on this. The forwards must know that at least one in every two chances created must be put away and goals scored against this team could be the difference in this group.
Though relatively a young team, the Eagles will have to be wary of Shimelis Bekele, who has scored six goals in 15 games for his country.
In five matches, Nigeria has won four scoring 16 goals in the process; it should be more of the same in Nelspruit, South Africa in January 2013.