This was supposed to be a mismatch but the Super Eagles failure to get out of the blocks in their opening two AFCON qualifier fixtures has made this one against Sudan a FINAL.
Nigeria currently sits third on the log with a solitary point from a possible six which means they will need to do what they failed to do in their games against Congo and South Africa which is win the doubleheader. Anything less than the maximum six points in their back to back clash against the Falcons of Jediane, and the 2013 AFCON winners could as well kiss their hopes of defending their title in Morocco goodbye and Coach Stephen Keshi could lose his head and his job.
If Keshi’s men are to triumph in both clashes, they will need to defeat the North Africans who, unlike Nigeria, are yet to get off to any kind of start. Sudan lost heavily at home in opening series; 3-0 to the Bafana Bafana of South Africa and lost away to group leaders, Congo 2-0. That should make Nigeria favorites going into their match against Sudan but if their recent performances are anything to go by, Nigerians could be in for a long 180 minutes.
Would the Eagles banish the demons to win for the first time since June or would Sudan come up with a victory of theirs and land a heavy blow on Keshi’s side chances of qualifying? Would the recent move to a synthetic pitch play affect the Super Eagles? Does Keshi’s future as Eagles Coach hinge on this back to back tie? Time would certainly tell but this preview would give a peep into what to possibly expect in Khartoum and possibly Abuja.
DATE: 11th October, 2014
TIME: 18:00 (Nigerian time) 20:00 (Sudan time)
Referee: Janny Sikazwe (Zambia)
LAST FIVE MATCHES
The North Africans have won just one of their last five matches and that was a 2-1 over 2012 AFCON winners, Zambia on the 10th of December, 2013. They have lost their last four matches. This poor run of form would certainly not inspire confidence within the ranks of the Sudanese side and Nigerians would hope that the poor run of form would continue till next week Wednesday.
10/9/14 Congo 2 V Sudan 0
05/9/14 Sudan 0 V South Africa 3
31/08/14 Zambia 3 V Sudan 1
12/12/13 Kenya 2 V Sudan 0
10/12/13 Zambia 1 V Sudan 2
While soccer-loving Nigerians would hope for a poor performance from the North Africans, they will however be worried by their darling team’s poor showing of late which has seen them win just one of their last five matches, victory coming against Bosnia at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Fans have recently been treated to lacklustre performances.
Keshi’s insistence on selecting players who are not starters at their clubs and ignoring those who are in good form at their club sides have not helped matters. Off the pitch, the recent leadership tussle at the Glass House and Keshi’s contract renewal saga(still unresolved) have also been contributing factors to the three time AFCON winners’ poor performances in recent months.
They should however still start out as favorites on Saturday and Wednesday but if there is one thing most Nigerians would most expect, it would be that the recent slump in form is arrested.
10/09/14 South Africa 0 V Nigeria 0
6/09/14 Nigeria 2 V Congo 3
30/06/14 France 2 V Nigeria 0
25/06/14 Nigeria 2 V Argentina 3
21/06/14 Nigeria 1 V Bosnia and Herzegovina 0
HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
These two teams have previously met eleven times with the Super Eagles emerging victorious on six of those occasions, the spoils were shared four times and Sudan emerged victorious in the other fixture.
28/11/1963 Sudan 4 V Nigeria 0
12/09/1969 Nigeria 2 V Sudan 2
3/10/1969 Sudan 3 V Nigeria 3
13/04/1973 Sudan 1 V Nigeria 1
27/04/1973 Nigeria 2 V Sudan 1
04/03/1976 Nigeria 1 V Sudan 0
16/08/1992 Sudan 0 V Nigeria 0
23/04/1993 Nigeria 4 V Sudan 0
27/01/2001 Nigeria 3 V Sudan 0
01/07/2001 Sudan 0 V Nigeria 4
09/01/2008 Nigeria 2 V Sudan 0
It is however interesting to note that prior to the first match of the qualifiers, the Red Devils of Congo had defeated the Super Eagles just once in a competitive fixture. That stat proved to be of no relevance as the Congolese came down to humble Nigeria in her backyard three goals to two. It remains to be seen if the Sudanese take a cue from this and channel it towards a positive performance on Saturday and Wednesday.
Nigeria will be without Stoke City winger, Victor Moses and World Cup Star, Michael Babatunde who are injured for the Khartoum clash. They will be badly missed as they offer flair and pace. Moses who was dropped from the last squad has begun the season in fine form providing three assists in the English side last three matches. Michael Babatunde would miss the weekend’s game but faces a race to be fit for the game on Wednesday.
On a positive note, Super Eagles will welcome back first choice goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama to the fold after he missed out the first two matches of the series.
Sudan has no injury worries as Coach Mazda has stuck with the same squad that lost both games in Omdurman and Pointe Noire.
Vincent Enyeama (Lille OSC, France); Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel); Chigozie Agbim (Gombe United)
Elderson Echiejile (Monaco FC, France); Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod FC, Israel); Efe Ambrose (Celtic FC, Scotland); Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor FC, Turkey); Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves, Nigeria); Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough, England)
John Mikel Obi (Chelsea FC, England); Ogenyi Onazi (SS Lazio, Italy); Nosa Igiebor (Maccabi Haifa FC, Israel); Omatsone Aluko (Hull City, England); Hope Akpan (Reading FC, England); Raheem Lawal (Eskisehirspor FC, Turkey); Anyora Ugonna (Haugesund FC, Norway): Emem Udouk (Dolphins FC, Nigeria)
Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce FC, Turkey); Gbolahan Salami (Warri Wolves, Nigeria); Osaguona Ighodaro (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria); Victor Moses (Stoke City, England); Aaron Samuel (Guangzhou R & F, China); Emmanuel Sunday (SV Scholz Grodig, Austria);
Moez Mahjoub (Al Hilal), A. Al Dayea (Ahly Shandy), Akram Hadi Saleem (Ahli Khartoum)
Amir Kamal, M. Abdallah, A. Gaafar, Khamis (Al Merriekh) Salah Nimr (Khartoum) Faris Abdullah, Jalal (Al Ahly Shandy, Al Rayah Ali (Ahli Khartoum) Tahir El Hadj (Rabta Kosti)
Nazar Hamid, Muhand, Besha, Shigail (Al Hilal) Ramadan Agab (Al Merriekh) Mojahid Faroug, Amr (Ahly Shandy) Badr Aldin (Khartoum)
Mudahir Kareka, Bakri Madena, Salah Jizoli (Al Hilal) Hossam Naseldin (Rabta Kosti) Mohsen Hassan (Ahly Shandy)
The following factors will determine which country will emerge victorious in the double header clash this weekend and next week.
With Nigeria on one point and her Sudanese counterparts yet to kick off their campaign, both teams will be under pressure, albeit, for different reasons.
The Nigerian National Team will look at this fixture as a chance to get their faltering campaign back on track. As defending champions coupled with the expectations of soccer-loving Nigerians, Keshi’s men will have to somehow get the six points in order to be in a decent position by the time they will travel to Congo and welcome South Africa next month.
The way they handle the pressure will determine whether they will become the third AFCON winners in a row to fail to defend the title (Zambia and Egypt the other two) or whether the Green and White flag will fly high in Morocco. With Keshi calling ‘rookies’ to the team, it remains to be seen whether the pressure gets to them but with players like Enyeama, Onazi and Mikel who is long overdue a good performance still in the fray, they will be the ones who will need to step up the plate and seize the initiative especially in the away game.
In Khartoum, they will most likely face hostile reception from the locals but if they can get their noses in front early in the game, it will not only make the inexperienced Sudanese side nervous but would also send chill of fear amongst the expectant Jediane fans. An early goal would also settle the nerves of the Nigerian National Team Players. The Super Eagles must also not fall into whatever antics the country from the Nile throws at them. Unnecessary early bookings for the boys in green and white should be avoided as it could lead to a nervy and an overly cautious showing from Keshi’s men.
For the Sudanese side, unlike the Nigerian National Team, they really have nothing to lose. The Falcons of Jediane may be on zero points, but bookies are not expecting their fortunes to change against the 2013 AFCON winners. This could make them approach the tie with a relaxed mind as if they lose, they would not have defied the odds. Such a relaxed coupled with a nervy one from the Super Eagles could lead to the unexpected and relaunch their 2015 AFCON Qualifying campaign.
In Nigeria, it will be important the Super Eagles banish their last home defeat against Congo and not let that get into their heads while for the fans, regardless of what happens in Khartoum, the most important thing is that they get behind the team. For Sudan, they can take inspiration from Congo’s performance in Calabar and produce a similar performance to that of the Red Devils.
Whoever deals with the pressure better could just about win the psychological battle.
Stephen Keshi has been a fan of the 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 formation and despite articles and pundits calling for a change, it is highly unlikely that the Big Boss would tinker with his already tested formation. On the down side, Keshi has however been accused of not having the tactical nous to make the big calls or substitutions or alterations in tactics.
Against a Sudanese side that will most likely start aggressive, he will have to ensure that he sets up his team in way to survive the early onslaught and hit on the counter. I do not however suggest Keshi adopts a 17th century approach as that would be counter-productive but balancing between the defence and attack would be important to whatever chances the Super Eagles would have. Should they however have to chase the game, going gung-ho would not be a bad idea. Striker, Emmanuel Emenike has failed to score in nine international matches and it remains to be seen whether the Big Boss will stick with the Turkish based forward. Keshi should start with a 4-3-3 formation which would provide firepower with pace against a Sudanese defence that conceded three in her last home fixture against South Africa.
For the Sudanese side; expose Nigeria’s defence which is her Achilles heel; stay compact and tight as the Super Eagles do not have that midfielder that can unlock defences and exploit the flanks. Mazda should start with two attackers in a 4-4-2 formation where they will depend on their front two men Mudathir Kareka and Bakri Abdulgadir to get the goals for them and kick start their campaign. Sudan is the home side and it is important they take the game to their opponents.
- PLAYING SURFACE
Sudan Football Association on Tuesday moved Saturday’s African Cup of Nations Qualifiers from Al-Merrikh Stadium in Omdurman (natural pitch) to the Khartoum Stadium in Khartoum (an artificial pitch). This late change could have an effect on both team’s showing especially Nigeria who is famed for her short passing style and would need time to acclimatize.
Whether this affects them or not will depend on their level of adaptation and also their ability to switch successfully from a short style of to a more direct style.
With a lot at stake going into this game, I expect a physical and well contested game with both teams throwing everything at each other in order to stay in touch with leaders, Congo and South Africa.
On paper, Nigeria should have too much for their Sudanese counterparts but same was said of their previous two games. Should they turn up with another poor performance, Sudan will no doubt capitalize.
All said and done, I expect a Nigeria victory; 2-1 in Khartoum and 3-0 in Abuja