By Babajide Alaka | Deputy Editor
The 2014 World Cup final Group F qualifying match against Malawi is just a month away and the Super Eagles have the chance to play a friendly on Wednesday against credible opponents South Africa to determine their readiness.
New players have been drafted in, especially in defence as coach Stephen Keshi tries to grow the back-up for the likes of injured Kenneth Omeruo and Joseph Yobo.
Goal looks at five things that the Eagles need to learn in Durban tomorrow.
|NSOFOR, SORIOLA AND OKWUOSA HAVE ANOTHER CHANCE
The good news with the withdrawal of Kenneth Omeruo and Emmanuel Emenike is that the likes of Obinna Nsofor, Gege Soriola and James Okwuosa will get the chance to show whether they will fit into the plans of coach Stephen Keshi in the coming months as the Super Eagles prepare to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
Keshi needs to find players that will score goals and that is the major reason why he has invited Nsofor, whom he described as a player that will always give more than the proverbial 100%. Though the Locomotiv Moscow striker has not had it all rosy in Russia, it may just be his redemption time via the national team. Nsofor was expected to be one of the main stays of the Super Eagles after his exploits with the U-23 team in Beijing in 2008, but the expected blossoming has not happened. However, better late than never.
Soriola and Okwuosa are good defenders, who are better known for their physical endowments other than tactical and technical finesse but their time in South Africa should have fine-tuned the rough edges. They will get the chance to show that they can be an Oboabona for Stephen Keshi on Wednesday.
|LEARNING TO PLAY POSITIVELY AWAY FROM HOME
The last away match in the CHAN qualifiers showed a Super Eagles team that is still wobbly on its travels so this match will be an opportune time to show that the team can be super wherever they find themselves.
Also last month in Brazil, the team did not perform to the required standards even though it gained a 6-1 victory over minnows, Tahiti. The two losses to Uruguay and Spain, especially the 2-1 loss to Uruguay showed that the players need to begin to understand the psyche of playing away from home.
Though the losses can be put down to some glaring mistakes by the strikers, it is hard to remember the last time the Super Eagles won away from home - if we take away the victory over Kenya in a World Cup qualifier last June. The match that followed was the one against Namibia, in which the team needed a late equaliser to rescue a 1-1 draw.
After that we have had matches against Mexico, which was also drawn. The team must start to win on its away trips, this will further bolster the confidence of the players especially as they prepare to qualify for the World Cup. If they scale Malawi next month, there will be a difficult away match awaiting them in the play offs.
|THE RETURN AND IMPACT OF VICTOR MOSES
It was widely trumpeted that one of the major reasons why the Super Eagles failed to shine at the Confederations Cup was the absence of Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike.
Both players are back to full fitness but Moses will be the only one available for the Mandela Challenge on Wednesday. Based on his displays for Chelsea in pre-season, the winger has been explosive.
The Super Eagles have lacked the inventiveness and unpredictability that the Chelsea man brings into the ranks of the squad and the technical crew and the fans will be desirous of seeing their x-factor in action in Durban as he returns after taking a break during the Confederations Cup.
|MAINTAINING THE STATUS QUO OVER BAFANA BAFANA
Bafana Bafana have only ever beaten the Super Eagles in a friendly that was played in South Africa. Their last victory was in 2004 and they have been pining for another since.
South Africa has also been a good hunting ground for Nigerian teams and this friendly, even though it is against homers, the caliber of players that will be on show for the Super Eagles are at a higher level than the players that will wear the golden yellow jersey of South Africa.
|GAIN VALUABLE FIFA POINTS
As the Super Eagles prepare for the last group qualifier against Malawi in September, it is important that the team continues to gain points in the Fifa ranking so that the country stays in the top five in Africa. Currently, Nigeria is ranked fifth in Africa and that bodes well for the team if they qualify for the last round of the qualifiers.
Caf revealed that the first five teams in Africa will be seeded and cannot meet which means that if Nigeria stays in that bracket, they cannot face the likes of Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali and Algeria. Though the likes of Egypt and Senegal are still in the hunt for World Cup tickets – meeting the Elephants and Black Stars in a home and away basis would be a lot scarier.
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