Nigerian official assures - Determined to ease tension that has gripped Nigerian fans over the fate of the Super Eagles at the ongoing African Nations Cup finals in South Africa, top Nigeria Football official, Chris Green, has assured that Nigeria will not underrate Ethiopia, their less-fancied opponents from the Horn of Africa.
According to the Media Chief of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Ademola Olajire, the Chairman of the NFF Technical Committee, Barrister Green has assured: “The players know what this match means and they will not toy with it. It is the game we must win to get to the quarter finals.”
Ethiopia’s Walya Antelopes stand between Nigeria and a place in the knock-out phase of the continent’s premier sports competition, following inauspicious draws with Burkina Faso and Zambia in earlier sessions.
A draw could still get Nigeria into the last eight, provided Burkina Faso’s Etalons overpower the defending champions in the other game of Group C at Mbombela Stadium the same day, but Green is averse to such negative thinking and voodoo mathematics.
“I am not at home for such permutations. The two matches will be played simultaneously and any team that takes things for granted will have itself to blame,” Green said, referring to Sunday’s dramatic end to Group A, with Morocco’s Atlas Lions eliminated despite being at the top of the table with five minutes left.
“When we step out at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium on Tuesday, it is to pick up the three points,” concluded Green. 'It will be important for the Super Eagles not to underestimate their opponents.'
In June 2011, the Nigerians were overwhelming favourites to trample on the Antelopes for three points in a 2012 Cup of Nations qualifier in Addis Ababa. The irrepressible Ikechukwu Uche gave Nigeria the lead but the hosts equalized when Vincent Enyeama misjudged a pull-out and lethal marksman Salahdin Said headed into the net on the stroke of half time.
Eagles were on the backfoot soon after recess when Efe Ambrose sold his headed ball to Enyeama short and Said capitalized to slot past the stranded goalie. Skipper Joseph Yobo had to sprint forward to head in the equalizer with few minutes remaining.
Salahdin Said, 24, who plays for Wadi Degla in the Egyptian League, has not scored in this tournament, but is by far the most dreaded striker in the Ethiopian team.
The skinny, tireless forward has scored nine goals in 14 appearances for his country, including the goal that sent Ethiopia to the 29th Africa Cup of Nations at the expense of a rampant Sudan. This is Ethiopia's first Cup of Nations in 31 years.
Ethiopia currently top their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying table, thanks to Said, who scored in the 1-1 draw with South Africa away and both goals in the 2-0 defeat of Central Africa Republic in Addis in June 2012.
Alongside skipper Adane Girma and the youthful Fuad Ibrahim, Coach Sewnet Bishaw has an attacking line capable of delivering the goods when called upon.