September 6, 2009

Tunisia punish Nigeria in Abuja

By Onochie Anibeze

They clinched their fists, pumped the air and hugged, commending each other for a job well done.
The way the Tunisians celebrated their 2_2 draw with Nigeria in yesterday’s World Cup qualifier told their story., It is a story  of their continued march to the World Cup in South Africa, a pleasant one for them and a sad commentary for Nigeria. Qualification for the World Cup is no longer in the hands of the Eagles no matter what they do. Nigeria will only pray that the Tunisians lose a match while they win their remaining two.

But they also worship God and will also pray. And God is never partial. God will remain fair to all and this means that the better team will go to South Africa. And based on what they displayed  at the Abuja Stadium, they looked a better side that will present better representation for Africa in the World Cup. Nigeria’s only hope will be left to chance but it is a chance that is not backed by hope, a chance that Tunisia proved last night that they deserved more.

BREAKING THROUGH . . . Nigeria Ikechukwu Uche move ahead away from a Tunisian opponent while Mikel Obi tries to assist.

BREAKING THROUGH . . . Nigeria Ikechukwu Uche move ahead away from a Tunisian opponent while Mikel Obi tries to assist.

It was a bad night for Nigeria. The Public Address System at the stadium that will host the opening and closing matches of the FIFA Under 17 World Cup did not work and could not announce the filing out of the teams. The national anthem, consequently, had no life when it was played and failed to elicit the usual excitement  associated with it. The scoreboard of the stadium never worked and when the players started the game they followed suit. The stadium was filled to capacity but they failed to ginger action, they failed to inspire action. They wanted Eagles to lead them, to inspire them first. It did not happen until Osaze Odewenge’s 25th minute goal that came through a solo effort. The stadium came alive. The celebration was deafening.

But it had hardly died when Sliti Nabil equalised with a superb strike 25 yards outside the box. Vincent Enyeama was wrongly positioned and the Nigerian players were still celebrating their goal. That goal killed the stadium. For the next ten minutes, the Eagles were yet to recover from the shock and so were the crowd. It meant more confidence to the Tunisians who even before then were playing a very tactically organised game. They were not defensive and did not lose their heads when attacking. They were quicker on the ball and were comfortable in counter_attacking Eagles each time Nigeria made a move up front.

They enjoyed the space our players presented  with their play and formation. A 4 – 3 – 3 formation was no threat to their 4_4_2. In fifteen minutes, Mikel Obi was holding his waste, Ike Uche was running around himself and Chiunedu Obasi was trying to find his feat. They made some flashes and the crowd cheered.

It ended there until the second half when they appeared to nit their passes better. Olofinaja was injured and replaced by Eneramou. Kanu Nwankwo came in for Obasi and Nsofor for Ike Uche.  Eneramou had shot Nigeria into the lead in the eight minutes to full time and Abuja went wild in celebration, singing South Africa 2010. Tunisia would not give up. Taiye Taiwo strolled away from his position and Darragi Oussma punished him and Nigeria by equalising and probably ending the South Africa journey for Nigeria