Upbeat after a shock victory over former World champions France, Nigeria's Super Eagles are expected to get their World Cup qualification campaign back on track with a convincing home win over Kenya on Sunday...
Who: Nigeria Vs. Kenya
When: Sunday, June 7, 2009 1800 CET
Where: Abuja National Stadium
Nigeria Super Eagles In Full Flight
Confidence is again on the high for Nigeria after two solid showings against Republic of Ireland and France ahead of Sunday's World Cup qualifier against visiting Harambee Stars of Kenya.
This was contrary to fears expressed by some of the country's top officials that these two games were coming too close to a crucial World Cup qualifying match.
The on-form Irish could only force a weakened Nigerian team to a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage last month and days later, a largely experimental Eagles team recorded a heart-warming 1-0 victory over 1998 world champions France in Saint-Etienne.
It was not just the results of these games that caught the eye, but also the whole-hearted commitment by several players like Olubayo Adefemi, Sam Sodje, Michael Eneramo and Dele Adeleye, who have been on the wings of the national team.Former Lobi Stars striker Eneramo was top scorer for Tunisian champions Esperance with 18 goals this past season and showed he can crack it at the highest level with a superb finish against the Irish.
His arrival on the international scene comes at a time when Nigeria are on the lookout for a big striker following the absence of injured Everton star, Yakubu Aiyegbeni. Nigeria boast a great record against the Kenyans, but the country's officials are leaving nothing to chance to ensure a big home win on Sunday and so have offered an additional $200,000 win-bonus, if the Eagles can ship three goals without reply past their East African opponents.
The setting is certainly a lot better than it was in March when the team barely survived in Mozambique against a fired-up home side.
Defensive Kenya Fight For Respect
The Harambee Stars got their World Cup qualification off to a poor start in March when they lost 2-1 to Tunisia in Nairobi. Since then, German coach Antoine Hey has come under heavy fire. His problems were further compounded when he clashed with some of the local clubs over signing of a commitment form for their players in the national team.
Hey has promised to get a result in Abuja, but going by past records between the two countries, this will really be an uphill task for his team. The last time, they had visited Nigeria in 2002, they let in three goals, the same scoreline in 1997.
"It will not be easy against Nigeria but with a good game plan and some luck, we hope for a surprise," said Hey.The Kenyans' build-up for the Nigeria game was not helped also by a cash crunch, which forced Hey to suspend training this week as he and other officials shopped for funds to settle the players' allowances.
A proposed training tour of Germany was called off because of this reason and after they failed to play a warm-up against Malawi, the Harambee Stars had to settle for test games against local clubs.
However, on the bright side, Norway-based goalkeeper Arnold Origi is expected to ensure that some of the goalkeeping blunders by Noah Ayuko, which cost Kenya all three points in Nairobi in March are not repeated.
Kenyan sports journalist, James Wokabi, predicted: "Hey has not won a match in Africa, whether with Liberia or Lesotho. He has also left out Kenya's best defender, Edgar Ochieng. I will be happy with anything better than a 3-0 loss."
June 2, 2009 - France 0 Nigeria 1
May 29, 2009 - Republic of Ireland 1 Nigeria 1
March 29, 2009 - Mozambique 0 Nigeria 0
March 28, 2009 - Kenya 1 Tunisia 2
March 14, 2009 - Iran 1 Kenya 0
January 23, 2009 - Egypt 1 Kenya 0
Newcastle United striker Obafemi Martins will not be available against both Kenya and Tunisia this month as he has opted for a hernia operation this summer.Nigeria are sweating on the fitness of several players ahead of Sunday's game.
The players include Hoffenheim forward Chinedu Obasi, Bolton defender Danny Shittu as well as Everton star Joseph Yobo.Defender Obinna Nwaneri will not be available for this match as he is serving out a one-match suspension after he picked up his second booking in Mozambique in March.
Former international Victor Ikpeba ruffled a few feathers after he suggested that some of the high-profile absentees during the friendlies against Republic Ireland and France should not be considered for this game.
Goalkeepers - Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide, Dele Aiyenugba
Defenders – Onyekachi Apam, Yusuf Mohammed, Joseph Yobo, Danny Shittu, Obinna Nwaneri, Taye Taiwo, Chidi Odiah, Elderson Echiejile, Dele Adeleye, Olubayo Adefemi, Chibuzo Okonkwo
Midfielders - John Mikel Obi, Sani Kaita, Seyi Olofinjana, Kalu Uche, Yusuf Ayila, Oluwafemi Ajilore, Dickson Etuhu
Forwards - Nwankwo Kanu, Obafemi Martins, Osaze Odemwingie, Obinna Nsofor, Ikechukwu Uche, Chinedu Obasi, Joseph Akpala
Midfielders John 'Mo' Muiruri and Austin Makacha have been recalled to the team for the trip to Nigeria. 'Mo', 30, who last featured for Kenya in a 2-1 shock loss against Eritrea at Kasarani in September 2006, plays for Norway's second tier side Moss FK.
Austin Makacha, a kingpin in the Kenyan midfield and 2008 Kenya Premier League midfielder of the year, returns to the team after missing the Tunisia tie following a club-country controversy. Makacha plays for IK Sirius in Sweden's lower league.
Allan Wanga of Angolan side Petro Atletico is also back in the fold to boost the Stars strike force. Coach Hey did not fly out with the team to Nigeria over a pay row. He later travelled after the sports minister intervened.
Goalkeepers- David Okello, Willis Ochieng’, Arnold Origi
Defenders- Joseph Shikokoti, Musa Otieno, Pascal Ochieng’, Mulinge Munandi, George Owino, Julius Owino, John Njoroge
Midfielders- MacDonald Mariga, Victor Mugabe, John Muiruri, Austin Makacha, Robert Mambo, Peter Opiyo, Osborn Monday
Forwards- Patrick Oboya, Dennis Oliech, Allan Wanga
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nigeria - Osaze Odemwingie: The Russia-based forward posted a stinker against Mozambique in March but he has since redeemed himself with a man-of-the-match performance against France in Saint-Etienne. He covered every blade of grass, from defence down to attack, and a similar showing against kenya would propel the Eagles to a resounding victory.
Kenya - MacDonald Mariga: For a squad with seven defenders and seven midfielders, defence will be the name of the game. Parma’s MacDonald Mariga, fresh from helping his side gain promotion back to Italian Serie A, is expected to take the commanding role in midfield with his ball winning and passing skills. He has already been linked with a transfer to a top Italian club in the summer.
A big home win for Nigeria. This means the players will get their special three-goal win bonus of $200,000, besides, of course, their usual $5,000-a-man bonus for a home win. Kenya will be in Abuja to defend and may pay dearly for such a negative approach against a team known for their attacking prowess. A convincing win for the Eagles will then set up an interesting clash with closest rivals Tunisia two weeks later in Tunis.
Nigeria 4 Kenya 0
Samm Audu, Goal.com