Super Eagles or Stallions?
Motivation is there for all Nigerian players
Nigeria will win tonight’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) final against Burkina Faso and Hillbrow, in downtown Joburg, will come to a standstill.
With a coach like Stephen “The Big Boss” Keshi, whom some have labelled arrogant for speaking his mind, and the added incentive that Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote has promised the players a bonus of $800 000 (about R7.1 million), the odds are stacked against the Burkinabé Stallions.
This week, Keshi reiterated his take on “mediocre” white European coaches or “carpenter coaches”, as he calls them, saying they destroy African football.
But the 50-year-old mentor has a lot to worry about as he tries to satisfy millions of Nigerians who are following the team’s progress.
Knives were already out for him long before the Super Eagles arrived for this 16-nation tournament.
He was not bothered as he had accepted the fact that even if he wins the final against Burkina Faso tonight, he might still not be in charge of the team in their next match.
Only a few people gave him a chance to succeed at this tournament after he called up 17 players with no Afcon experience.
But passion, determination and a winning mentality have always been the Super Eagles’ assets.
Reports in Nigeria suggested Keshi would have been sacked had he not beaten Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals.
Winning tonight’s encounter will make him the first Nigerian to win Afcon as a player and coach.
He captained the victorious 1994 team. And, if Nigeria wins the final, they will represent the Mother Continent at the Fifa Confederations Cup in Brazil in June and July.
Nigeria at a glance
The Super Eagles have played as a team despite having big-name players like the Chelsea pair of John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses.
Unlike other teams, they are not over- reliant on one individual to do the damage and goals come from anyone.
Their spine, goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, Kenneth Omeruo, Obi and Emmanuel Emenike, has been solid and Moses and Elderson Echiejile complete the team.
They tend to relax after scoring and this has been their undoing as they allowed Burkina Faso, Zambia and Ivory Coast to equalise in their games.
It is difficult to describe their exact formation as it depends on the opposition.
They rely on Moses, who interchanges the wings, and Emenike also comes in handy with his pace upfront.
Obi does the mopping up in the midfield while spraying passes around.