2013 AFCON Africa Cup of Nations: No excuses as Nigeria takes on Ethiopia – Nigeria's Super Eagles go for perhaps their most important game at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations Tuesday, when they take on the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia in their final Group C encounter in Rustenburg, South Africa.
It has been described as a make-or-mar encounter, because the winner of the match will simply take all while the loser will head home.
All the teams in the group still have a mathematical chance of advancing to the quarters, making it a daunting task for the four teams in action Tuesday.
With only two points from as many matches – same as defending champion Zambia and two behind group leader Burkina Faso – Nigeria needs a good win to advance, a good win because the country needs to avoid a tie with the title holder in case both win their matches.
Nigeria's head coach Stephen Keshi is keenly aware of this fact, hence he said his team will simply take its destiny into its own hands by winning convincingly, instead of hoping that Zambia will either win by a narrow margin or lose to Burkina Faso in the group's other match.
“We have our destiny in our own hands” said Keshi. 'We must just beat Ethiopia to make the quarter finals.'
Analysts said Nigeria will do well to score as many goals as possible, to avoid what happened against Burkina Faso and Zambia when it led with one goal, only to give up the lead late into the match.
The Eagles will be counting on Emmanuel Emenike, the scorer of its two goals so far, while also hoping that Ikechukwu Uche and Ahmed Musa will find their scoring form.
In the defence, indications are that captain Joseph Yobo will return to action, after missing out on the Zambian tie. This could boost confidence in Nigeria's back area.
For its part, Ethiopia has removed the pressure on itself by simply saying it has nothing to prove, and that reaching the finals of the continental football extravaganza for the first time in 31 years is already a big achievement.
While that may be true, coach Sewnet Bishaw also knows that his team still has national pride to play for, especially to redeem its image after a 4-0 battering by a 10-man Burkina Faso in their second group C match Friday.
And of course all hope is not lost for Ethiopia, as it could still advance to the quarters if it beats Nigeria and gets a favourable result from the Zambia/Burkina Faso match.
Unfortunately for coach Sewnet, his two most important stars, Adane Girma and Asrat Megersa, are down with injury and may not be available for the match.
While doctors have ruled out Adane, the fate of Asrat will only be known Tuesday.
Both picked injuries in Ethiopia's humiliating 4-0 loss to Burkina Faso last Friday.
Also, first choice goalkeeper Jemal Tessew is still out, while his deputy Tadelle Zerihun seemed to be struggling to assert himself.
Coach Sewnet acknowledged the importance of Adane and Asrat, when he said he had built his game plans around the two players, hence the game plan went awry after their injury in the match against Burkina Faso.
'I never expected the catastrophic result we had against Burkina Faso. We were playing well and opening up the game until those injuries. Then the Burkina Faso beat us through counter-attack.
“We take a good lesson on that and will make amends when we face Nigeria,” the coach said.
How he does that Tuesday remains to be seen, but no one should write off the Walya Antelopes just yet.