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AFRICA NATIONS CUP: IT’S UPHILL TASK AGAINST EGYPT

AFRICA NATIONS CUP: IT’S UPHILL TASK AGAINST EGYPT

By Pat Muo

Egypt is Nigeria’s major problem in the present run-off to the next African Cup of Nations tournament and this is real!

Nigerians who love and cherish football must know this.They must be aware that Egypt is not just leading Group G in which the Pharaohs are zoned alongside Nigeria but has scored five goals in just a single match!

Nigeria is in that group, represented by the Super Eagles.  She scored nothing!  In a week in which Egypt decisioned the Republic of Chad with a 5-1 drubbing, Nigeria could not score a single goal! Both countries honoured away fixtures that week.  It was the re-commencement of proceedings in the qualifying rounds of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations competition billed for Gabon penultimate January.

The Super Eagles did not only fail to score in Dar es Salaam against hosts, Tanzania.  Its game was lack-luster, a big pity. If not for newly acquired goal tender, Carl Ikeme, the story would have been worse.  The opportunity to rubbish the Taifa Stars in their own stead in Dar es Salaam was there.  It presented itself clearly.

Before the game, Tanzania had already surrendered to the Eagles.  It was expected.  Nigeria’s credentials were intimidating.  In the Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria had been continental champions not less than three times.  She had beaten such tough football -playing nations like Algeria, Egypt. Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali etc.

Tanzania had not! That country’s football federation and her citizens who love the game, had only seen the African nations’ trophy displayed on television or in the internet.  To them, Nigeria was a genuine role model to which the development of Tanzanian football must look upon.

To buttress this, Nigeria known to have been to the FIFA World Cup tournament several times as representatives of the Africa  continent.  Tanzania had not!

In the FIFA World rankings Tanzania is no where close to Nigeria.  It was clear that the worst selection of a Super Eagle’s squad would beat the Tanzanian national team anywhere in the World  anywhere, including their own soil.

To buttress the inferiority, the Tanzanian national team coach, Zanna Weaveh, told sports journalists at the close of his team’s last training session before the Taifa / Super Eagles’ match, that Taifa Stars needed the full support of the Tanzanian nation to survive the Super Eagles in Dar es Salaam, asking his countrymen and women to stand solidly behind them s against the Nigerians.

“We know the stuff they are made of,” he observed.  “Nigeria is very good.  If they visit you, you’re in trouble.  If you go to their place, your headache is doubled.”

“Football is their food.  Apart from religion, I doubt if there is any aspect of life that Nigerians adore more than football.  We pray for God’s mercies against them here in Dar es Salaam.  That is why I have told my people that we need their full support.  They must stand behind us.  They must cheer us to victory.  They must see the Taifa Stars as their own and cheer us from the beginning till the end.”

The people of Tanzania did cheer their own.  The support was truly massive.  And they were assisted by the wobbling and weak players who doned Nigeria’s jerseys in that clash.

Outside goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme, the rest were just numbers and have, by their poor contributions to that game, pushed Nigeria into the sorry position she has now found itself in the group qualifiers.  It has not ended.  Because only one nation would emerge from each group, Egypt, all things being equal, is likely to take the Group G ticket where Nigeria is now fighting for survival.

And why not?  Egypt has played two matches.  It won all, beating this same Tanzania 3-0 in Cairo and humbling Chad Republic 5-1 in their own bedroomd

To survive Egypt, Nigeria will have to win their remaining matches in the group including the fixture against Egypt.  For this to be possible, Sunday Oliseh will have to sit up.  Celebration time for appointment into the chief coach position of the Super Eagles must be put aside.  If he has not made any contact with Victor Moses, Idion Ighalo, Kelechi Iheanacho, Mikel Obi, Vincent Enyeama etc, now, yes, now is the time to do it.

It is clear that the stage of experiment with new players is over.  We have walked into a competition and playing in a tough group. Nigeria did not qualify for the last Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Equatorial Guinea.  She cannot afford to be absent in Gabon in 2017.  That will mean that for eight years, Nigeria will remain a back-bencher in African football.

It is pertinent to remind Sunday Oliseh that nobody in Nigeria will forgive him if that happens.  Not even those who are singing his praises will back him.

His next match in these qualifying series is on March 23, 2016 While he prepares the Super Eagles to square up with the Pharaohs of Egypt on that date, Oliseh must know that the Egyptians will be made to fall by a wide goal margin.  They lead the pack in Group G at the moment with a wide goal margin, having scored five goals already.  The wide gap must be reduced by this match bearing in mind that a return fixture between both countries will come up in Cairo on March 26, 2016, only three days after the encounter in Nigeria.

ALL THE REMAINING GROUP G MATCHES

MARCH 23, 2016:

Nigeria Vs. Egypt

Tanzania Vs. Chad

MARCH 26, 2016

Egypt Vs. Nigeria

Chad Vs. Tanzania

JUNE 5, 2016

Chad Vs. Nigeria

Tanzania Vs. Egypt

SEPTEMBER 4, 2016

Nigeria Vs. Tanzania

Egypt Vs. Chad

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