AFCON 2013: Nigeria Super Eagles must fly over Ethiopia
Nigeria are expected to get their 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign back on track with a win over Ethiopia in a final Group C tie today in Rustenburg.
The Super Eagles have drawn their first two group games against Burkina Faso and champions Zambia and would now need to beat Ethiopia to reach the knockout stage of the tournament.
Zambia, who like Nigeria are also on two points, face surprise group leaders Burkina Faso at the same time today in the other game in this group.
Nigeria last failed to reach the quarterfinals of the AFCON in 1982, which was also the last time Ethiopia featured at the tournament proper.
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi, who has failed to qualify both Togo and Mali beyond the group stage of this competition, said he is aware anything short of victory will eliminate his team.
Incidentally, the last time both teams faced off at the Nations Cup finals was at Libya 1982, when a young Nigerian team walloped the Ethiopians 3-0 in a group phase match in Benghazi with Keshi getting one of the goals.
In June 2011, the Walya Antelopes made life difficult for the Eagles in a 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier as the Nigerians needed a last-gasp equaliser by skipper Joseph Yobo to draw 2-2 inside a rocking National Stadium in Addis Ababa.
The Eagles had won the reverse fixture 4-0 in Abuja a few months earlier.
However, there are injury concerns over Chelsea winger Victor Moses, who claimed he picked up an injury against Zambia.
Ethiopia may have been battered by a direct-playing Burkina Faso and are sweating on the fitness of several of their key stars, but they could still reach the next stage also with a win today.
Coach Sewnet Bishaw said they will attack their more fancied opponents.
“This game is matter of dignity and keeping our heads up,” Sewnet said.
“I tell you we are not going to the field to defend. Defending will only give you one point so we are going to play for goals and maybe we can qualify.”
Ethiopia have played some attractive, passing football which unsettled Zambia and saw them rally from 1-0 down with 10-men to finish 1-1.
Belgium-bound striker Saladin Said remains the biggest threat to Nigeria after he scored against the Eagles in Addis Ababa two years ago.
And Ethiopia will again count on their large travelling band of supporters to lift them beyond the Super Eagles.