The last round of matches in the group stages of 2014 World cup qualifiers in Africa produced some interesting results, but all attention is now shifted to the final round of qualifiers which promises more excitement, as the draw has pitched some superpowers of African Football against one another.
While the Egypt who last tasted the World Cup tourney 23 years ago will hope to snatch next year’s ticket from Ghana, Senegal has been pitched against the Ivory Coast in what will open another chapter in the fierce rivalry which cost the former the 2013 Nations cup ticket.
African champions, Nigeria seem to have gotten an easy tie on paper, but recent happenings in African football suggests Ethiopia could be a kill joy if they are taken with levity. The Wayla Antelopes stunned the continent when they overturned a two-goal deficit against Sudan to qualify for their first Africa Cup of Nations in 30 years. They have since built on that success by defying the odds of three points deduction to top a world Cup qualifying group that had South Africa as the favourite; amassing 13 points with 8 goals scored and 6 conceded in the process.
The Eagles finished top as expected in their group, with a total number of 12 points, 7 goals for and 3 against. Going by the analysis of all countries in the final round, Nigeria and Burkina Faso have the lowest ratio in term of goals scored which should be a source of concern for their respective coaches due to the fact that this final round might not only boil down to the number of points earned but the number of goals scored.
Though you have to score goals to win matches, it is also a fact that you can only lose matches when you concede goals. And Nigeria happens to have an edge here; the Super Eagles have the best defensive record in the qualifiers shared by Ghana and Cameroon (3 goals conceded). Nigeria though has an advantage over Ethiopia in terms of quality and experience but football has shown over the years that determination anf purposefulness can neutralise quality when it matters most.
Nigeria must thus be aware of the fighting spirit and doggedness of these Ethiopian Antelopes who are ready to do all within their power to bring pride and glory of a first world cup berth to their nation especially in the 30,000 capacity stadium in heart of Addis Ababa. The Eagles should have it at the back of their minds that if they scale through, it won’t be big ews but if they are beaten that will be the mega news and they should also remember that there is nothing as dangerous as fighting a person who has nothing to lose. The first leg takes place on Sunday. Nigerians support and wish the Eagles best of luck…
POSER: What do you think will be the scoreline of the Nigeria-Ethiopia match next Sunday?