By Jacob Ajom
Once the dust had settled after Nigeria’s stunning 4-3 win over Morocco in a Chan quarterfinal match at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi was left to reflect on one of the greatest games he has ever been involved in.
It was a breath-taking 90 minutes which showcased the best of African football. The game produced seven goals scored, nearly all of them brilliantly executed, as the West African team turned around a three-goal first-half deficit against a Moroccan side which very much played its part in what could well be the best
match at the Cape Town Stadium this year.
Keshi enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a player in Nigeria and Europe, before going on to manage Togo, Mali and then the Super Eagles, which he guided to the 2013 African Cup of Nations title, subsequently being named as African Coach of the Year.
But he was hard-pressed to think of too many other matches similar to Saturday night’s goal fest.
“It was something very unique. It happened when I was in Mali, 2010 Nations Cup, against Angola in the first game, we were four goals down, 12 minutes, we came back to score four to tie 4-4.
“This one was something else though. I just want to say thanks to my players for the character and the mentality that they brought in the second half, they’re just awesome.”
Keshi said the secret to the stunning fightback was to pay less respect to their opponents after the sides came out for the second half.
“This was not us playing in the first half. It was like we gave too much respect to Morocco. They are a good team, but we have to be ourselves and we have to take our game to them.
“In the second half I wanted to see different character, I wanted to see the same character that we brought into the Bafana Bafana game (a 3-1 win in the group stage which knocked South Africa out), or more.
“So they came in and they said, we are not going home, we want to be here for the final, and that’s what happened.”
Morocco coach Hassan Benabicha blamed his side’s second-half capitulation on the lack of preparation the team had before the tournament.
“Coming into this tournament we did not have any friendly matches, we came into this competition and faced a big team of the calibre of Nigeria and with such a great coach,” said Benabicha.
“Going forward we can start preparing for the 2015 Afcon, which takes place in Morocco.
“Our objective there is to do everything in our power to put in a good showing and eventually lift the cup.”