January 25, 2016

Tomorrow . . . do or die for CHAN Eagles

Tomorrow . . . do or die for CHAN Eagles

Head Coach, Sunday Oliseh, leading the Eagles for a light work out, ahead of their opening match against Niger Republic in a Group C fixture at the 2016 African Nations Championship at the Stade Régional Nyamirambo, Kigali on Monday

By Paul Bassey

 The Match Coordination Meeting (MCM) of Group C that will be held today before tomorrow’s matches, the contents of CHAN Regulations Article 74 will be presented and explained to the teams by the General Coordinator. Article 74 is that Almighty Article that has to do with the separation of teams at the end of Group matches in case of a tie. During the Nations Cup in Equatorial Guinea, Mali and Guinea had to go through the infamous coin toss to separate the two teams.

Here in Rwanda, the Super Eagles failure to beat Tunisia and qualify for the quarter finals has taken the battle of the Group to the final match where even Niger with one point stands a chance to qualify. It is a simple arithmetic of Ifs…If Guinea with two points beats Nigeria ( God forbid?) then Guinea will advance. If Niger with a point beats Tunisia with two points, then Niger will advance and so on.

It is true that all Nigeria need is a draw to qualify, but in a game of football where the Southamptons of football can strike in the 87th minute to claim maximum points, then it is only wise to play safe and establish superiority by going for an outright and emphatic win!

What chances the Super Eagles.

At the end of encounter against Tunisia, I remember telling Coach Oliseh that the boys played better as a team but that football was about goals. The debate as to whether Chikatara was better as a substitute is still there. What is not in doubt however is that he can be very lethal in front of goal. Against hard fighting Guinea tomorrow, Oliseh by now would have found his starting Eleven. The first match was more of an experiment and we thank our stars that the opposition was Niger who allowed us a second half blitz to come out tops with a superior goals difference that will help us when it comes to broke.

In an interview he granted the local media after the exciting 4-1 drubbing of Niger. Oliseh said his presence in Rwanda was key as he was in search of players that could make it to his A team(?) I have said before now that the so called A team was suspect if it had to do with our players based abroad. This definitely is not the best of times for our foreign armada. Apart from Odion Ighallo, who is that player who every week is hugging the media headlines out there, with superlative displays? Not many.

Here I see a lot of promise and character. Here I see hunger, here I see some understanding….perhaps due to the fact that very few clubs make the nucleus of the team……Sunshine Stars have five players here and four of them started against Tunisia. Two from Abia Warriors and two of Rangers’ three were also in the starting line up. Of players anxious to please the coach and remain in his dreams.

I may be wrong, but I believe that given the quality of the players we have out there, at least ten of those we have here can walk into the Nigerian team with their eyes closed.

The ten?

Let me hazard a guess based on the two matches played. Ikechukwu Ezenwa is as safe as ever. Very reliable. Okoro, Prince and Chikatara have struck a partnership that must be sharpened and made to deliver. Mathew Etim is so silently effective that he is a strikers delight in terms of supply. However he should also learn that it is not enough to waltz in the midfield without going for goals.

I like skipper Chima Akas. Tiredless worker who likes to show by example. Eze Stephen, Ifeanyi Mathew, Onobi Paul and Oboroakpo will play in my team anyday. I know the potentials of Orji Kalu, Bassey Ezekiel, Ibenegbu Bartholomew and Adeniji Babatunde. I just hope that those who will be fielded tomorrow will do well to remain in the competition and afford their colleagues enough time in the limelight to also showcase their wares.


Rwanda is a delight. I am yet to see a city as neat as Kigali. A city were order is a culture. Where neat coaster buses are used as public transport and no standing is allowed. Here, there are Okadas, but please use your helmet. After two weeks of peri peri in the hotel, we found two joints serving Nigerian food. Yes. A Yoruba and an Ibo woman ( Who else?)

Ah! Did I tell you that the CAF delegation is lodged in Hotel Mille Collines? Yes the same hotel where the famous film Hotel Rwanda was shot. Where about twenty two years ago, some 200 refugees besieged the hotel until they were rescued by the UN Peace Keeping Force. Every time I go into my room, I wonder who the occupiers were, what could happened etc. Today am part of history.

Another type of history beckons on the Super Eagles. Over to them.

See you next week.