By Babajide Alaka | Deputy Editor
Whatever it will take, the Super Eagles have to beat Ethiopia in Rustenburg on Tuesday to get a chance of making the quarter finals for the 14th time in their romance with the Africa Cup of Nations over the last 50 years.
If they are not to be shown the ignominy of the exit, Stephen Keshi must do these five things to keep the nation’s flag flying in South Africa.
Goal.com looks at five things the coaching crew must do to gain a quarter final ticket.
|GET A GOOD PENALTY TAKER
The assignment of playing penalties should be taken off Mikel Obi – it is an added pressure to a player who is trying to win back the fans into his corner and the angst of missing spot kicks should not become another albatross across his neck. Imagine that he missed that kick against Ethiopia in the 87th minute and Nigeria was sent packing from the Nations Cup, the Nigerian football fans may never forgive and forget.
So there is Vincent Enyeama, who takes these kicks for his clubs wherever he has found himself – from Enyimba to Hapoel Tel Aviv, he has been the consummate penalty taker.
Also Obi should be taken off every set piece duty. His corner kicks and free kicks have posed no threat in this tournament. Floated high like volleyball about to be spiked, it makes good catching practise for the opposing goalkeepers. Victor Moses, if he plays will do a better job.
|TRY OUT ANOTHER MIDFIELD COMBINATION
The combination of Fegor Ogude, Mikel Obi and Nosa Igiebor has not wrought the desired forward play that will transit into goals so Coach Keshi needs to do a little tweaking in this department.
In the first two matches, Igiebor has been out of position because Obi has decided to push forward more exposing Ogude to the two beat one situation and Igiebor caught in between the lines. If the coach wants to line up Mikel as the offensive conduit then he should bring in another player who will help Ogude in his defensive duties and also have the propensity to carry the ball into attacking areas.
Ogenyi Onazi would have been the preferred choice as he has the energy and as he showed against Catalonia, he also possesses that burst of pace that can take him beyond defenders in the push into the third segment of the pitch. He has also showed that he can score with two goals in his five appearances for the Super Eagles.
|PLEASE DO NOT RESTORE AMBROSE TO RIGHT BACK
If Keshi does not trust Kenneth Omeruo to do the job at right back, please let Ogenyi Onazi continue in that position as his energy and ability to go forward will be needed against Ethiopia not a perpetually marooned Efe Ambrose, who has shown that he cannot be trusted going forward or defending.
Omeruo and Onazi have shown that they bring more quality to the right back than the Celtic central defender does. So in Nigeria’s search for a win – and this is not writing off Ethiopia’s chances, the Eagles full backs must be able to join the attack and provide good crosses or even get into scoring positions – these qualities Ambrose has not shown in his various stints at right back.
|BRING IN OSHANIWA FOR ECHIEJILE
The Eagles will not get any worse if Juwon Oshaniwa comes in to replace Elderson Echiejile at left back. The Portugal-based defender has been the most nervous defender for the Eagles and has not joined the attack as frequently as expected.
Anytime the opponents attack down Nigeria’s left side, fans have their hearts in their mouths not knowing what calamity would befall the team on account of Echiejile’s apparent nervousness. This is not saying that the SC Braga man is not a good player but that he has not shown enough confidence to continue to command the left-back position. Let Keshi try the option that he has.
|DO FOR A DOUBLE-PRONGED ATTACK
Now the Ethiopians will be preparing on how to shackle Emmanuel Emenike, but that plan can be thrown askew if Emenike is paired with either Brown Ideye or Ikechukwu Uche.
Emenike has shown that he can score goals and we have also seen the way he has been man-handled in the last two matches so the coach should help him out by giving him a partner and playing two orthodox wingers in Ejike Uzoenyi from the left and Victor Moses or Ahmed Musa from the right. This will give more potency to the team in the last attacking third of the pitch and will also stabilise the midfield.The most important thing is that it will have the Ethiopians thinking again about their game plan and before they settle, the Super Eagles might already have notched up the goals that will take them into the quarter finals.
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