Keshi must pull rabbit out of his hat against Sudan

Nigeria has a must win game against Sudan in Khartoum on Saturday night but the focus is hardly on the game but on things so trivial they shouldn’t matter.

The Nigerian media, once again, can/ should talk/write on the team in Sudan, what they have to offer, how Nigeria can win, what tactic(s) can be employed, possible players for the game and what they have to offer.

But they would rather bore Nigerians with headlines like the sack of Keshi, the players like Ike Uche and Obafemi Martins who were not invited and a new coach for the team.

Maybe Nigerians and the media should focus on the game and not distract the team from their mission in Khartoum

What the Eagles have up against them

With only one point from their previous two games in the campaign, the Super Eagles know only an outright win will keep them firmly in the series and with an opportunity to defend the title they won in South Africa 20 months ago.

The Nigeria delegation of 66 persons, including 24 players and officials, 20 members of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club and few NFF Secretariat Staff and couple of journalists, flew out of Abuja aboard a chartered Air Sudan aircraft at midnight on Thursday, and landed in Khartoum four hours later.

The Eagles led by goalkeeper and skipper Vincent Enyeama, also includes goalkeepers Austin Ejide and Chigozie Agbim, defenders Elderson Echiejile, Juwon Oshaniwa, Efe Ambrose, Godfrey Oboabona, Azubuike Egwuekwe and Kenneth Omeruo, midfielders Mikel Obi, Ogenyi Onazi, Nosa Igiebor, Omatsone Aluko, Hope Akpan, Raheem Lawal and Ugonna Anyora, and strikers Ahmed Musa, Emmanuel Emenike, Gbolahan Salami, Osaguona Ighodaro, Emem Eduok, Aaron Samuel, Sunday Emmanuel and Michael Babatunde, was scheduled to train at the Khartoum Stadium by 8pm on Friday.

However, because of torrential rains they eventually trained at the Sudanese FA’s Goal Project with the stadium water logged.

Officials at the Embassy of Nigeria have informed the Nigeria Football Federation that they expect over 4,000 Nigerian students who are based in Khartoum to turn up for the big game on Saturday night.

Although temperature has soared above 40 degrees, Sudan FA Public Relations Manager Issam Gumaa has assured that it will be much cooler at night when the match will take place.

Sudan’s Senior National Team have not beaten their Nigerian counterpart since 1967, when they edged a 1968 Olympic Games qualifier 2-1 at the same venue. But in July 2001, the Super Eagles lashed their hosts 4-0 in Khartoum’s twin city, Omdurman, to virtually seal a place at the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals in Korea/Japan.

How Eagles can beat Sudan

Most people believe they know how Keshi will shape his team.

After all Nigerians have watched him as coach of the Eagles since November 2011 and unless something really changes we all expect Vincent Enyeama to return in goal, Efe Ambrose, Elderson Echiejile, Kenneth Omeruo and Godfrey Oboabona in defence.

The midfield should have John Mikel Obi and Ogenyi Onazi while upfront may be Ahmed Musa, Emmanuel Emenike and Gbolahan Salami.

The Sudanese probably watched tapes of the Eagles and know what these players have to offer, from Enyeama to Emenike but Keshi may have a rabbit or two in his hat to throw in and confuse his opponents.

In 2000 at the AFCON, the South Africans prepared themselves to play against Nigeria knowing how the Eagles would shape but Bonfrere JO did something “crazy” by starting Finidi George and Tijani Babangida, two players who used to play from the right.

Before the confused South Africans realized what hit them Nigeria was two goals up, both from Babangida who no one expected to start.

Before that, at the AFCON in 1994, Clemens Westahof suddenly unleashed Emmanuel Amuneke in the final against Zambia. The focus before then was on Rashidi Yekini, Finidi George and Daniel Amokachi, suddenly, this kid who played at Egypt’s Zamalek started the final and scored two goals.

Emem Eduok and Osaguona

Two players that can turn things around for the Eagles today are Emem Eduok of Dolphins and Osaguona Ighodaro of Rangers.

For Emem, a late entry with tired feet around him could be what the Eagles will need especially if the game is not in their favour at the time because of his pace.

Emem is confident on the ball, has a good burst of pace and is confident playing on the left, right or center of attack.

He is Victor Moses with more speed and less selfishness but most of all he is unknown internationally.

Most of all he can run and never tires.

Emem Eduok’s 15 goals in all competitions this season at Dolphins is a testament of what he can do.

In Osaguona Ighodaro, Keshi has a striker who has played less than 30 minutes of international football but acts like he has 30 or more games under his belt.

He is a fearless attacker at Rangers International, good with both feet and head, fast and scores for fun.

Most of all, he is unknown internationally.

Emmanuel Emenike has not scored for Nigeria since October 13, 2013 in Addis Ababa against Ethiopia and since it’s about the national team and not any player, Keshi should be bold enough to throw in Salami, Ighodaro or Eduok at some point in the game if things get rough.

Omatsone Aluko- Sone Aluko is one player who is yet to show his full worth at international level.

In Europe with Rangers and Hull City, he has played as winger, as support striker or as Trequartista but the key here is that he is very unknown at International level

These are games Stephen Keshi must win and aside from the players known by all, the likes of Eduok, Osaguona, Aluko can win this.

The first and last twenty minutes, as they say is very key in games like this and we wish the Super Eagles the best of luck.

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