By Babajide Alaka | Deputy Editor
Nigeria are through to the last round of African qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup that will take place in Brazil following their victory over Malawi. However, to make sure that the team makes it to Brazil, Goal looks at five things that were observed against the Flames last Saturday in Calabar.
|TOM, THE MIND GAMES DID NOT WORK
The coach of the Flames tried his best Fergusonesque behavior in the days leading to the game between Nigeria and Malawi but in the end – the Eagles were just in a different class. On another day – if they needed a draw and the Nigerians needed a win, maybe things could have been different.
Though the exchanges between him and Stephen Keshi added an edge and tension to the encounter as it made sure that the technical crew headed by Keshi was totally focused on the match. After the match, it was revealed that the Belgian coach had the Flames’ job until 12 noon on Sunday.
So the reason for the anecdotes became very clear – Tom Saintfiet used the match against Nigeria as a publicity stunt and we all fell for it. How many pages of newspapers did he occupy?
And how many mentions did he get on the internet? Innumerable, so he did achieve his aim – he is more popular than he was three months ago.
|MOSES IS TRULY WORLD CLASS
If there were any doubts concerning the talent of Victor Moses, Saturday's game dispelled all that. Simply magical and at times untouchable, the Liverpool loanee was a constant thorn in the flesh. Many times especially in the first half, he took his opponents to the cleaners and delivered good crosses into the box that were not converted.
He got the crowd going and in the second half after scoring the penalty, he actually performed a juggling act on the pitch, which left the fans drooling. And just as he did against South Africa during the Nelson Mandela Challenge match, he is always going to be very important in opening up stubborn defenses.
|KESHI, EAGLES NEED MORE INTENSITY IN THE FINAL THIRD
If the Eagles needed to win Saturday, maybe the manner of their play would have been different but on the evidence of what we saw, the team has to have added intensity most especially in the final third of the pitch.
The few times that Mikel Obi tried to quicken the tempo almost exposed the Malawians but the intensity was never sustained for an appreciable length of time. The two goals also showed that when the Eagles can increase the tempo in the half of their opponents, they are more likely to make mistakes and leave gaps that will then be exploited for goals.
The combination play between Emenike, Nnamdi Oduamadi and Ahmed Musa, which led to the penalty came about with the added urgency that the three players showed in exchanging passes.
|CALABAR IS A GOOD VENUE FOR THE EAGLES
Despite the rain, the people of the sleepy town of Calabar came in droves to cheer on their team to victory and even when the goals did not come on time – there continued to be positive energy from the stands.
And one cannot begin to think of another pitch in Nigeria that would have stayed firm underfoot after the deluge that was witnessed. An hour to the match, it seemed as if the pitch would become waterlogged but just 30 minutes to the match, the pitch drained perfectly and we did not witness players slipping.
The Eagles showed a commendable gesture to the fans at the end of the match by going around and applauding them – they are great people. And let not the Nigeria Football Federation commence a hawking process for where the next match of the team will be played.
The team has already found a home in Calabar, and I am not talking about using the UJ Esuene Stadium for friendly matches.
|EMENIKE BROUGHT BACK THE CUTTING EDGE
The Super Eagles have played 10 matches without Emmanuel Emenike and scored 17 goals (six against a hapless and clueless Tahiti) but the return of the Afcon highest goal scorer showed succinctly what the team had been missing in the last seven months.
His goal against Malawi had all the attributes of a striker confident in his own abilities. He called for the ball and as soon as Ogenyi Onazi delivered the pinpoint pass, Emenike did the rest. The dink over the goalkeeper could have looked easy in its execution but Ahmed Musa had three such chances and was not able to convert any.
Coach Stephen Keshi will be glad of the striker's return as the Super Eagles await their next opponents on the way to Brazil 2014.
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