As the Super Eagles brace up for the first leg against Antelopes on Sunday, Goal looks at the key battles that could determine the outcome of the match
By Babajide Alaka | Deputy Editor
The Walya Antelopes are a closely-knit team and play a lot of one-twos with each other especially in the midfield areas so it will be essential for players like Ogenyi Onazi and Mikel Obi to be continuously conscious of the players’ movements around them.
Goal beams a revealing light on some key battles that could swing the tie in either team’s favour.
|OGENYI ONAZI V MENYAHEL TESHOME
The real orchestrator for the Antelopes is the 27-year-old Saint George midfielder, Menyahel Teshome. Teshome is very nimble and also very mobile and scored the goal that qualified the Antelopes for this match.
Onazi on the other hand is the engine of the Eagles and is tireless whether marking opponents or trying to open tight defences from deep and he also scores the odd goal. The more energetic of these two players will win the midfield battle.
| MIKEL OBI v ADANE GIRMA
Adane Girma (pictured above) is another product of Saint George and likes to float between the lines of midfield and attack where Mikel Obi also likes to operate. But it being an away match, Mikel has to restrict his attacking tendencies as he does at Chelsea to help Onazi win the midfield battle.
Also Mikel is needed to slow the game down to negate the effects of altitude on the team. Girma will be hoping to draw the Eagles talisman away from that area so as to help create one-on-one situations between Onazi and Teshome.
| GODFREY OBOABONA v SALADIN SAID
The Wad Degla striker likes to make his runs from the Left wing thereby catching the last central defender on the turn that is Oboabona, who has not played so much football since he joined Turkish side Caykur Rizespor.
Oboabona must be very sharp and wary of these runs or make sure that the right back should always be on the lookout for these runs. Saladin showed a bit of what he can do at the last Nations Cup where naivety proved the undoing of him and the whole team.
Now more experienced, he will be a more consistent performer and will raise the stakes in this first leg.
|EMMANUEL EMENIKE v DEGU DEBEBE
Emenike has not been free scoring for Fenerbahce since his arrival from Russia but the burly striker scored in his last two matches for the Eagles so will be in buoyant mood. Debebe likes to post a physical battle though he is technically proficient.
It will be left to the Super Eagles striker to impose his game on the Ethiopian captain. Debebe rarely makes mistakes in his tackling so it will be left to the striker to be fleet of foot and make sure to commit the Ethiopian captain and possibly get cautioned in the first half which will make it more difficult to dive into tackles in the second half.
|ELDERSON ECHIEJILE v GATANEH KEBEDE
In the last five matches for the Antelopes, Kebede (pictured left) has scored thrice which spells danger for any opponent especially any team that does not work on the technicalities of the individual players.
Echiejile has shown a serious propensity to overlap and help the attacking play of the Eagles in recent matches but in Addis Ababa with its thin oxygen content, he must minimize those runs so as to keep an eye on Kebede, who likes to begin his move from the right of their attack where he cannot be picked up by the central defenders and the midfielders so the Braga man will need to almost do a man-marking job on Kebede.
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