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HomeSportsNigeria super eagle eagers to secure W/Cup place against Ghana

Nigeria super eagle eagers to secure W/Cup place against Ghana

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Confidence is good. Desirable even. Overconfidence, however, is a treacherous slope that leads in one direction: downwards to disaster.

The former is what Nigeria need, the latter is what they need to be wary of as they go into the second leg of their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying playoff fixture against Ghana on Tuesday.

Already, it looks dangerously like many Nigerians have already written off Ghana following the 0-0 first-leg draw in Accra. In fairness, they have good reason to feel that way.

After weathering early pressure from Ghana, Nigeria finished the game stronger and actually created more chances than their hosts and should really have won it after missing a big chance late in the game. But Frank Onyeka failed to look up and wasted the opportunity for what should have been a telling cross.

“We had chances we could have buried,” said Nigeria coach Austin Eguavoen. “We were just not calm enough in the box, but we have been working on how we will give some of these final balls to allow our forwards to have easy passage to goal.”

With the game ending in a stalemate, there is an air of accomplishment among fans at the team training and around Abuja that the Super Eagles will finish the job on Tuesday.

Assistant coach Emmanuel Amunike is urging caution, nonetheless.

“We all have one objective, we want to qualify,” Amunike said. “But you have to tread with caution.

“The Ghanaian team are no pushovers. People are looking at them based on what they did at the last AFCON in Cameroon, going out at the group stage. But each game is totally different and what matters now is that we have gone to Ghana to play the first leg and we have managed the game and achieved our objective.

“Playing away in a two-legged fixture, if you cannot win, then make sure you don’t lose. We did that perfectly and now we are back home to try to finish the job.”

To do that, the former Tanzania coach is under no illusion as to the size of the task, and the effort it will require from the team.

“The important thing is to have cohesion, knowing when to attack and when to defend without losing the structure of the team,” Amunike said.

“Just like us, the Ghanaians also want to go to the World Cup, and just like our players, Ghanaian players also play in Europe. So they are aware from a tactical, technical, individual and team point of view, so we must have that respect for them.

“That means we have to stay focused and work hard. I believe that if we do our jobs, then we can win the game, but we cannot be complacent.”

If there is one player who felt the full brunt of the Black Stars’ physical approach to the game in the first leg, it was Victor Osimhen.

The Napoli man was consistently squeezed between Ghana centre-backs Daniel Amartey and Alexander Djiku every time he went anywhere near the ball — almost turning him into the beef in an Amartey-Djiku sandwich.

Unlike the fans, Osimhen is expecting more of the same on Tuesday and expects the Super Eagles to have to be at the top of their game to secure a spot in Qatar at the end of the year.

“It won’t be easy, we know that already,” Osimhen told ESPN. “No game is easy in Africa and from what we saw against them, they will want to come here and make it very difficult for us. We have to give respect to the Ghanaian team. They have some great quality players. But we are ready. We are really looking forward to this game.”

However, Osimhen points to two reasons why the Super Eagles should win, without being overconfident.

READ ALSO: Terrorists attack Abuja-Kaduna train as troops step in to dislodge attackers

“We have great individual talents that can win games for us and we have a very good squad depth with players on the bench that can come in and get the job done for us,” he said.

“We will also be playing with our 12th man, that is our fans and the way they will support us, and drive us. I think we have a chance of getting this World Cup ticket.”

To provide that 12th man and fill the 60 000 capacity Moshood Abiola Stadium, Nigeria’s Sports Ministry and Nigerian Football Federation are bussing in fans from the satellite towns around Abuja. Both organizations are also purchasing 20,000 tickets to distribute to fans.

“We will buy 20,000 of the tickets and give to fans at designated centres on Monday and Tuesday morning. We want to ensure maximum support for the Super Eagles by filling up the stands,” Sports Minister Sunday Dare said.

“The NFF have done well to secure maximum capacity of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium for the match. This move will guarantee us a full house.”

Eguavoen’s big issue will be less in the stands and more on the field. To wit, what personnel and tactical changes should be made given the questions surrounding his selection in Kumasi.

The Super Eagles struggled to get a toehold in midfield against the Black Stars, with the consequence that Osimhen was left with little support from midfield and got little to no quality service, much less a decent sniff at goal.

Oghenekaro Etebo was left out of the starting lineup — despite his experience at this level — with the justification being his lack of playing time after returning from injury. But he showed his sharpness coming on in the second half and could be in contention to start. Samuel Chukwueze is a doubt with injury.

The Villarreal man failed to train for two days straight and is unlikely to start. That leaves the door open for Emmanuel Dennis or captain Ahmed Musa on the right.

Eguavoen also faces a decision on Kelechi Iheanacho, one that may also be a consequence of Etebo starting. If Etebo does start, it could result in Joseph Aribo getting pushed up into the No. 8 position to support the midfield and also help out with Osimhen.

Whoever gets picked, forward Odion Ighalo says it will come to down to heart in the end.

“Home advantage is for us, but we are not going to go to sleep because it is going to be a very difficult game, a tough game,” Ighalo told ESPN.

“Ghana will come out because they have nothing to lose now and they have no choice but to come out. So we just have to give our best 110 percent on Tuesday, take our chances, fight from start to finish, until the final whistle. I believe we will come out victorious, but we have to work for it.”

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