ADDIS ABABA AFP) – Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said the team is not overconfident after a 2-1 win in Ethiopia Sunday set up a probable fifth World Cup appearance.
An Emmanuel Emenike brace won the first leg of a play-off, leaving the ‘Super Eagles’ needing just a draw at home next month to secure a place at the 2014 finals in Brazil.
“We still have to go play Ethiopia at home as if we never played them, and we’ll take it from there,” he told reporters after the match in Addis Ababa.
Keshi commended Ethiopia’s ‘Waliya Antelopes’, who fought hard to keep up with the the ‘Eagles’ in the first half only to tire down the final stretch.
“Ethiopia were awesome today — they played good,” he said of a team who took an early second-half lead through Behailu Assefa.
“We (went) with our game plan, we just wanted to see how Ethiopia play at home,” he said amid lively celebrations from Nigerian supporters dancing and waving flags.
But the game was not without controversy.
Ethiopia came out strong in the first half with several goal attempts, including a shot deemed not to have crossed the line by the Cameroonian referee.
Angry fans disputed the call and lobbed bottles at the officials as they left the stadium in the Ethiopian capital.
“The referee was not good — there were some errors,” said upset supporter Eyob Abera.
But he is still confident his team will win in Nigeria on November 16 to secure a ticket to the World Cup.
“We will be the winners in Nigeria. We have to go to Brazil,” he said.
Ethiopia, a country better known for world-class runners than footballers, have amazed supporters by making it this far in the qualifiers, the closest the country has come to reaching the finals.
Since entering the competition, Ethiopia have been buoyed by avid supporters, thousands of whom turned out at the national stadium to watch the highly anticipated match.
Some fans with their faces painted, wearing the red, green and yellow of Ethiopia and draped in flags, queued overnight to get a chance to see the play-off.
While Nigeria, bolstered by stars like Chelsea pair John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses, have more experience than the Ethiopians, many agree the “Waliyas” should not be underestimated in Calabar.
“Any day, anywhere, they are going to give any team a run for their money. They are a very good team and maturing,” warned Nigeria’s football federation spokesman Ademola Olajire.
But he added that Nigeria had their sights set on Rio next year.
“It’s looking very good — we have a firm leg in Brazil now, we will finish the job in Calabar,” he added.