Unless the ‘impossible’ happens Wednesday, Nigeria may be the first country to qualify for the final round of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers from Africa.
The African champions who are heading to the FIFA Confederations Cup starting this weekend in Brazil are going to end this phase of the qualifiers Wednesday evening with 11 points to top Group F if the Super Eagles beat the Brave Warriors of Namibia right in their Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek.
But recent developments in African football that have demystified former power houses means that anything can happen today if Coach Stephen Keshi and his wards take the Namibians for granted. It is a known fact that Eagles with eight points have the best chances of progressing to the final round. That is not enough to discountenance the Brave Warriors as no-hoppers.
Mathematically, even Namibia with four points still have the chance of upstaging Nigeria if fate plays a cruel joke on the Eagles Wednesday evening.
If Namibia defeats Nigeria and Kenya (with two points) snatches a historic win against Malawi (with six points) on Saturday, the Eagles and the Warriors will finish on eight points respectively before head-to-head rule and goals difference come into play. That certainly will not be the type of situation that the African champions will want to find themselves.
Six days ago, the travelling Nigeria troupe got the better of their Kenyan hosts in Nairobi, thanks to a late goal by Ahmed Musa. The Eagles are looking forward to a bigger scoreline as they have been emphasising accurate shooting and deadly poaching.
Wednesday’s tie at the artificial turf of the Sam Nujoma Stadium in quiet Windhoek somewhat serves as the return of a 1-0 defeat the Brave Warriors suffered in Calabar a year ago, at the start of the series.
In that match, it took a late goal by Ikechukwu Uche for Nigeria to scoop the maximum points.
In fact, Nigeria’s four goals in this qualifying series have come late in their games. Midfielder Gabriel Reuben scored late in Malawi but there was still time for the Flames to equalise, and against Kenya in Calabar, the match was three minutes into added time before Nnamdi Oduamadi saved the African champions’ blushes with an equaliser.
Since coming into the saddle 20 months ago, Keshi has not lost a competitive match with Nigeria. The only two losses, narrow indeed, were the 2-3 defeat by Egypt in a friendly in Dubai on April 12, last year and a 0-1 loss to Peru in an international friendly in Lima the following month. Both matches were prosecuted by home-based players.
“I am confident that we will achieve our objective of earning three points here. We have been training hard here since arriving here on Friday and I believe the boys are itching to go into action.
“We have eight points now and can qualify with a game to spare, but we must work very hard as I don’t think the Namibians are a push-over,” Keshi said.
The Brave Warriors have been hit by the exit of their Swedish Coach, Roger Palmgren, 48 hours to the clash with the Eagles.
Football Association officials are nonplussed but have immediately put his assistants in charge.
Malawi’s Flames host Kenya’s Harambee Stars at the Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre same day, with the Eagles guaranteed progress should the hosts fail to win.
After Wednesday evening’s match, the Super Eagles will fly to Johannesburg Thursday afternoon to connect a South African Airways flight to Sao Paulo, from where they will travel to Belo Horizonte for their first match of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup tournament, against Tahiti
*Namibia is yet to score against Nigeria in three matches.
*Brown Ideye will be looking to score his fourth goal for the Super Eagles against the Brave Warriors.
*Former coach, Roger Palmgren is thought to be eyeing a job in China which prompted his abrupt resignation last Sunday.
*Eagles are ranked 31st in the world while Namibia is a lowly 125.
*The scorer of Nigeria's goal last June, Ikechukwu Uche is not in the present squad.
*Lazarus Kaimbi is the highest Namibian goal scorer in the team with five goals in 19 appearances.
*Vincent Enyeama will win his 81st cap if he is picked against the Namibians.