By Patrick Omorodion
After Nigeriaâ€™s football took a nose-dive September 6 when the Green Eagles fumbled to a 2-2 draw against the more enterprising Carthage Eagles of Tunisia to put their World Cup chance in jeopardy, two Nigerian clubs, Kano Pillars and Heartland Football Club of Owerri will this weekend complete what they started last week, lift the countryâ€™s name in far away Sudan and Zimbabwe.
Both clubs made history qualifying for the semi finals as it is the first time two clubs from Nigeria will make it to this stage in the history of the competition in which Enyimba Football Club of Aba also made history as the first and only Nigerian club side which have won the cup.
Already Nigerians are looking forward to an all-Nigerian final if both Pillars and Heartland could either top their groups or place second to avoid each other in the semi final where they are expected to overcome their opponents.
Coach of Heartland, Kelechi Emeteole, after picking the first semi final ticket of Group B, said in Owerri last Saturday when they beat 1969 and 1970 champions, TP Mazembe of Congo DR 2-0, that they would be happy to avoid Pillars in the semi and meet in the final.
The last group matches will be decided today and tomorrow in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Congo Dr. In Sudan, Pillars will be away to Al Merreikh who have nothing at stake after crashing out while Group A leaders on goals difference, Al Hilal will be away to another team with nothing at stake, Zesco United of Zambia.
With both Pillars and Al Hilal on 10 points, the result of their clashes today will determine who will remain top. Heartland on the other hand are the only sure semi finalists from Group B as Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia and TP Mazembe struggle for the second ticket.
Heartland who play tomorrow at the Rufaro Stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe would have known the results of Group A and Pillarsâ€™ position and do much to avoid a semi final clash between them.
With 10 points, one more than TP Mazembe, Heartland top Group B and a win will assure they remain leaders and avoid Pillars if the Kano side lose or draw and Al Hilal win or draw in Zambia.
Luckily for the Nigerian sides, their opponents are not expected to put up much resistance, except that they may just play for pride. The most interesting of the last group ties is the Lubumbashi clash between TP Mazembe and visiting Etoile. While the homers need just a point to join Heartland in the semis, Etoile need the maximum points to sail through.
Coach Diego Garzito of TP Mazembe will rely on midfielder Bedi Mbenza and Given Singuluma to destabilise Etoile just as his opposite number on the Tunisian sideâ€™s bench, Lofti Rhim is counting on Mossaab Sassi and Silva Alves Gilson Manuel to make the difference.
The semi finals come up in October with the first leg between October 2 and 4 and the second leg between October 16 and 18.