Another encounter which looks to be an exciting match in the CAF World Cup Qualifiers sees Nigeria travel to face minnows Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s progression in the last four years has been phenomenal. Qualifying for the African Nations Cup, World Cup Africa Zone top ten and CHAN tournament to be held next year in South Africa. No fluke.
Both sides would be meeting for the first time since January 29 when the Super Eagles beat Ethiopia 2-0 in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations final Group C game.
Though the odds are stacked against Ethiopia – Nigeria rank 36th in the world, according to FIFA, while Ethiopia clocks in at 93rd – the Waliyas maintain an unflinching resolve to win. Having beaten South Africa to land at the top of their group, it is the closest they have come to reaching the World Cup. Ethiopia know the next match will be far from easy. On top of their impressive global ranking, Nigeria have more international experience and boasts several players from top European leagues. But the Waliyas refuse to let that spook them. Having played Nigeria last January at the Africa Cup of Nations, Ethiopia are familiar with the strength of Nigeria’s Super Eagles, who won the game 2-0 before moving on to lift the trophy in South Africa.
“We are ready for this match, we are very ready. We learned a lesson from the mistakes we made last time,” said midfielder Menyahil Teshome. Coach Sewnet said despite Ethiopia’s defeat, the Nigerian squad is not a better team and the Waliyas maintained their strength until the last 10 minutes of the game. “If you look seriously at that match, Nigeria were not a better team than us. Up to the end we were performing good. But in the last 10 minutes they used their experience, so they got two penalties,” he said. But he admits training has been set back by the absence of the team’s four professional players, including star striker Saladin Said, who arrived only this week from Belgian club Lierse. Ethiopia – a country better known for their renowned runners rather than their footballers – have amazed supporters by making it this far in the qualifiers. Menyahil said his team, regarded as underdogs among powerful African national football teams like Ghana and Ivory Coast, is bolstered by a strong sense of nationalism and a refusal to be intimidated. “Our strength is our team spirit,” he added. Ethiopia went through Group A of qualifiers unbeaten, picking up five wins and drawing just one match in South Africa.
After four appearances at the World Cup in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2010, Nigeria are desperate for a place at next year’s tournament in Brazil. Coach Stephen Keshi has called up Chelsea’s Jon Obi Mikel and Victor Moses, who is on loan at Liverpool from Chelsea, as he aims to achieve a result to build on for the return in Calabar on 16 November. Lille goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama acts as stand-in skipper, while forwards Brown Ideye and Emmanuel Emenike are among six attackers in the squad. Like Ethiopia, Nigeria went through the last round of qualifying unbeaten, however managing just three wins and drawing thrice.
Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Lille); Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheva); Chigozie Agbim (Enugu Rangers)
Defenders: Elderson Echiejile (Sporting Braga); Francis Benjamin (Heartland FC); Efe Ambrose (Celtic); Solomon Kwambe (Sunshine Stars); Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor FC); Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves); James Okwuosa (Chippa United)
Midfielders: John Mikel Obi (Chelsea); John Ogu (Academica); Ogenyi Onazi (Lazio); Nosa Igiebor (Real Betis); Victor Moses (Liverpool); Sunday Mba (Enugu Rangers); Nnamdi Oduamadi (AC Milan)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow); Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kyiv); Shola Ameobi (Newcastle United); Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce); Obinna Nsofor (Lokomotiv Moscow); Uche Nwofor (Heerenveen)
Ethiopia have proved their worth at home and this will be a tough match for the African champions. South Africa did give the Ethiopians a run for their money in Addis Ababa and Ethiopia got the win through a Bernard parker own goal. Nigeria recently dominated Bafana in Durban and judging from that performance they should be able to scrape a win here.