By Paul Bassesy
There is celebration in the land, celebration that was not seen in the first half. A first half that made a mess of all those stupendous predictions by overzealous fans who believed that Ethiopia will be meat for supper.
It was fun listening to radio and television programmes where Nigerians predicted two or three goals victories for The Super Eagles. Yes, why not? It was okay to be patriotic and optimistic, but reality was yesterday.
Reality was our defence working overtime and Enyeama being called to make breath taking saves.
Was it the white jersey? Don’t laugh. It seemed even the Ethiopians played on our psychology because their preferred yellow dominated jersey was substituted for green to deny us our top choice.
The first half was torture for Nigerians. Nothing that the Eagles did right. Yes, analysts have blamed the altitude, the weather, pressure and wind that worked against Nigeria. Did I see the Ethiopians going for water break?
Whatever it was, Ethiopia used the first half to earn respect and prove to us that they did not get to this stage by fluke. Ethiopia played as a team. They understood each other perfectly and strung passes that made our defence look amateurish.
That they recorded over 60 per cent possession in the first half was an indication of their control, so much that we started praying for a goaless draw, believing that perhaps when we get to Calabar we will finish it off.
The second half started like the first with the Ethiopians all over the place. It took Enyeama’s effort in the 55th to keep us alive.
Two minutes later, If the referee believed that the first incident against Nigeria had not crossed the line, his second assistant did not allow him to think twice about the second, ruling that Enyeama had plucked the cross from inside the goal post.
One goal down, panic!
Then came Emenike, that moving train, the tanker, the modern day Amokachi, African Nations Cup highest goalscorer who manufactured a goal from nothing with a stupendous shot in the 67th minute. That was the tonic the Eagles needed to prove that one on one they were the better team, even if on paper.
The same Emenike it was whose solo effort ended in a penalty call from Camerounian referee Alioum Neant. Now that we have seen Ethiopia, now that we know Ethiopia, we will certainly respect them come November 16. But I make bold to say that this same Ethiopian side can be slaughtered, if we play traditionally, like Cote Divoire, Ghana and Cameroun would have done.
The Ethiopians played like the English. European football if you ask me, a football that Mikel and Moses are used to, where the opposition has the ball and you allow him all the space to caress, dress, move into position, pass and take possession until they miscue and you take over.
If we crowd the Ethiopians in Calabar, power play them, bulldoze may not be the word, but there will be need to utilize our muscle against their frail nature and bombard them to submission, in which case we can score more than three goals.
Well that is the future for you. For the present, it is celebration galore. a 2-1 victory away is a great result, one that sees us one and a half leg in Brazil. We congratulate Keshi and his glory boys, we congratulate Nigerians for this great step.
Brazil, here we come, despite a brief stop over in Calabar.
FOR LINUS MBA.
This week end, FIFA Referees Advisor and the Referees Consultant to the Nigeria Football Federation Linus Mba will be burying his brother in the sleepy town of Neke Isi Uzo Local Government in EnuguState.
The late Dr Anthony Ifeanyi Mba ( 69) was a staff of Wellcome Nig after which he graduated to supplying sports equipment to the military, and veered into other businesses that spanned various areas.
Our commiserations go to Oga Linus, for this great loss.
See you next week.