Observations from the 2014 World Cup Play-off between Nigeria and Ethiopia
Posted: 15 October 2013 Time: 10:32
Here are a few observations from the 2014 World Cup Play-off between Nigeria and Ethiopia over the weekend.
Oboabona: Bench, what bench?
If this is how Godfrey Oboabona plays when he has played only one competitive game for Rizespor, how much better will he do when he starts getting regular minutes?
In a team which performed generally poorly for all of the first half, Oboabona was a shining beacon and it was mostly down to him and Vincent Enyeama, that the Eagles went into the break with a clean sheet.
The defender will not be one Saladin Said will want to face again in a hurry after he made two decisive interventions in both halves to deny the Ethiopian marksman.
Emenike, Ideye partnership
As soon as Ideye came on, Emmanuel Emenike's game made an upward spike.
Liberated by Ideye's link up play and off the ball running, Emenike looked way more confident and dangerous.
It is no coincidence that his goals came after the Dinamo man was sent on.
There is no doubt that this combo is what works best for the Super Eagles. One of Stephen Keshi's forward three will have to make way for Ideye in the coming games, as long as both he and Emenike remain fit and in form.
Mikel's leadership showing through
At half time, I hobbled off to use the rest room. On my way back, most of the team were already in the tunnel getting ready to get back on the pitch.
At the head of the group was John Mikel Obi giving a very fiery, passionate speech to the players about making sure this game did not get away from them. In pidgin English.
There was no forming there, no airs. Just plain directions. Unfortunately, I did not ask for permission, and in any case, I was intruding so I cannot repeat what was said.
But that is what leaders do. And this, very clearly, is the future captain of the Super Eagles.
Eagles are champion stuff
For all the (justified) criticism of their first half performance, the hallmark of champions is grinding out a result even when they do not play well.
Winners stick in the memory, not the better team.
The likes of Manchester United have shown it time and again. And on Sunday, the Super Eagles showed it.
The thin air made controlling the ball hard to control, and adjustments needed to be made to the weight placed on passes. But those came right in,y in the second half.
I've taken stick for my post match rating of the players. And I can understand that. But the players came good in the second half, and that is what defines class and character.
Ethiopia can be a force
Give credit to Ethiopia. It is not so long ago that they, and a few other countries in Africa, were considered whipping boys.
Over the last few years, they have improved gradually and it will not be so long until they cause a major upset.
Outnumbered but not out sung
And while we are on the subject of handing out credit, I can't throw enough the way of the Nigerian Football Supporters Club.
All the way from the airport, when they arrived with the team, the drumming never stopped.
At the stadium, they were outnumbered perhaps 200 to 1, but believe me when I say they were not out sung. Not even when Ethiopia took the lead did they stop singing.
And when Emenike drew Nigeria level, their drumbeats could be heard reverberating around the entire grounds in the stunned Ethiopian silence.