Eagles In Make Or Break Match In Alexandria | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Eagles In Make Or Break Match In Alexandria

Simon Moses of Nigeria challenged by Omar Gaber of Egypt  during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier match inKaduna
Posted: Mar 29, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Chibuike Chukwu, LAGOS
Chad’s withdrawal from the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying series has changed the complexity of today’s qualifying match between Egypt and Nigeria in Alexandria to a must win encounter for the Super Eagles.
Super Eagles blew an opportunity to go top of Group G in Kaduna on Friday after Egypt came from behind to snatch a draw in a match Nigeria needed more.
The situation for the Eagles became more precarious after Chad, one of the countries in the group, withdrew from the qualifiers citing financial constraint. On account of that, the Super Eagles must defeat the Pharaohs as anything short of that will automatically hand the North Africans the sole ticket of the group.
A win will lift Egypt to seven points and put the Pharaohs out of the reach of Nigeria, which will have just one game (at home against Tanzania) left.
If the Super Eagles win, then it would hold the upper hand but would still needs to win its last group game to ensure qualification.
A draw for Eagles is not enough because Group G will not be considered for fair losers on account of the provisions in CAF Regulation.
According to the regulation, a group with three countries will not produce a fair loser, meaning only the group winner will qualify.
After Chad withdrawal, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) gave the team a tall order insisting that it must win the remaining two qualifying matches as that was the only option left for it to qualify fo the tournament in Gabon next year.
“We don’t have an escape route than to win our remaining matches, then we will be home and dry, and this includes beating Egypt in Alexandria on Tuesday,” said NFF spokesman Ademola Olajire.
Top NFF officials addressed the Eagles at their Kaduna hotel Sunday afternoon and warned them of the grave implications not winning in Egypt.
The central defensive pair of Godfrey Oboabona and Efe Ambrose must not give room for Mohammed Salah and Mohammed Eleney to operate knowing that the Pharaohs will come out on the Nigerians. Siasia should go ahead with his five-man midfield, which almost shut out the Pharaohs but for the goal.
Beating Egypt, according to Henry Nwosu, a former Super Eagles Captain, was possible if the players would only convert their chances.
“They played well in the first leg. The only snag was their inability to convert their chances. Honestly, if Egypt plays the way they did in Nigeria and our boys take their chances, we will win.
“They ball is in their court now to rewrite the history. Who tell you Egypt cannot lose at home? Siasia should do all to psych the players up to rise up to the challenge,” he said.
True to his words, Nigerian players wasted golden opportunities to win the match in Kaduna and will only have themselves to blame for playing under pressure in Alexandria.
Siasia downplayed the probable absence of goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme, saying much as he would be missed; there were capable replacements.
“We know what Ikeme can bring in a match, but we cannot rush. Let us see how it goes. If he will not play, we have capable hands that can stand for him. I know we have his support,” Siasia said.
Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2015 edition and should it fail to qualify for the next edition of the tournament, it will be the second time that the country will fail under the administration of NFF president Amaju Pinnick.
Egypt is not leaving anything to chance with the interior ministry now allowing 40,000 fans to watch this rematch after the crowd bans since the tragic incident in 2012 when 72 fans died at the Port Said Stadium.
Egypt is expected to be more adventurous than on Friday, when it defended solidly, coming out only after Oghenekaro Etebo scored in the 60th minute.
The Nigeria defence will be fully stretched on Tuesday as Mohamed Salah, Mahamoud Trezeguet and Ahmed Hassan ‘Kouka’ led the home team’s attack again.
Nigeria will be boosted with the return from a three-match ban of Lazio midfielder Ogenyi Onazi for Etebo to play a more attacking role in midfield.
Super Eagles loves to attack and is always capable of scoring goals, but the coach would also have to take a second look at his strike force – should Victor Moses start or should another striker lead the attack other than Watford star Odion Ighalo, who was largely ineffective in Kaduna?
“We will take the game to Egypt in front of their fans,” said Celtic defender Efe Ambrose.
“We need all three points in Egypt. It’s a tough task, but we’re capable,” added Akpeyi.
Captain John Obi Mikel called on his colleagues to fight to the finish.
“It’s a massive battle that we are going for and there should be no illusion about it,” he told the Nigerian Football Federation’s official website.
“We have to face reality and everyone has to give more than 100 per cent because we just have to qualify for the Cup of Nations.
“We have to go to Alexandria and fight with everything we have. There are still matches to play and we have confidence that we will earn the ticket.”