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Posts Tagged ‘Nigeria’

Confederations Cup: Spain 3-0 Nigeria

Spain 3 (Jordi Alba 3, 88, Torres 62)
Nigeria 0
Castelão, Fortaleza. Temp. 27°C, wind 8 mph, passing clouds. Referee: Joel Aguilar (El Salvador)

TEAMS

Spain: Valdes, Ramos, Arbeloa, Pique, Jordi Alba, Fabregas (Silva 54), Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets, Soldado (Torres 60), Pedro (Villa 75).
Nigeria: Enyeama, Echiejile, Ambrose, Omeruo (Egwuekwe 11), Oboabona, Obi Mikel, Mba (Ogu 63), Ogude, Ideye, Akpala (Gambo 71), Musa.

Vicente del Bosque’s all conquering Spain team expectedly beat Nigeria to win Group B at the 2013 Confederations Cup with three wins from three and Fernando Torres moved clear at the top of the scorers chart with his fifth of the tournament. Nigeria looked promising at times but ultimately they didn’t have enough to qualify for the semi finals and will be going home to concentrate on the final round of the African World Cup qualifiers to try to make sure they can return to Brazil next year and use the experience they have gained from this competition.

Spain got off to a dream start by taking the lead in only the third minute when Jordi Alba finished off a fine run with a confident finish past Enyeama in the Nigeria goal. If there’s one team in the world who you don’t want to be chasing the game against for almost ninety minutes on a hot day it’s Spain, for they are masters at keeping possession, and the Nigerians knew they were facing an uphill struggle from that point on. With Uruguay winning in the other group match, Nigeria needed a big win to have a hope of going through and to their credit they had a go, taking the game to Spain and creating some chances, the best of which was when a shot from Jon Obi Mikel hit the bar. However, Spain were always a threat themselves and Fabregas also hit woodwork at the other end as half time approached.

We reached the hour mark with the score still at 1-0 to Spain and del Bosque introduced Fernando Torres to freshen up his attack in a bid to kill off any hopes of a Nigerian revival. The Chelsea striker duly delivered within two minutes of coming off the bench as he headed a Pedro cross past Enyeama to double the lead. From then on the result was never in doubt and Alba wrapped up the scoring two minutes from time with his own second of the game. Spain, as Group B winners, will now face Group A runners up Italy in the second semi final on Thursday.

Related Links:
Spanish Football
Nigerian Football
Confederations Cup 2013

Confederations Cup: Uruguay 2-1 Nigeria

Uruguay 2 (Lugano 19, Forlan 51)
Nigeria 1 (Obi Mikel 37)
Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador. Temp. 27°C, wind 6 mph, passing clouds. Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Holland)

TEAMS

Uruguay: Muslera, Lugano, Pereira M, Caceres, Godin, Rodriguez (Pereira A. 88), Gonzalez, Arevalo, Suarez (Coates 83), Forlan, Cavani.
Nigeria: Enyeama, Echiejile, Ambrose, Omeruo, Oboabona, Obi Mikel, Ogu (Mba 66), Ogude, Oduamadi (Babatunde 45), Ideye (Akpala 73), Musa.

Oscar Washington Tabarez’ Uruguay team picked up their first points in the 2013 Confederations Cup with a 2-1 win over Nigeria in Salvador last night and gave themselves a great chance of progressing to the semi finals as long as they beat Tahiti in their final Group B fixture. Nigeria and Uruguay are now level on three points in the group standings, but the Nigerians face a tough final match against Spain and will probably need to win to have any chance of progressing in this tournament.

Malaga central defender Diego Lugano gave Uruguay the lead in the nineteenth minute with a scrappy goal following a corner, but the same player was unable to prevent Nigeria’s equaliser eighteen minutes later when he was beaten by Chelsea’s Jon Obi Mikel who made no mistake with his subsequent shot. It remained 1-1 until the interval but Nigeria were forced to start the second half without their hat-trick hero from the Tahiti match as Varese striker Nnamdi Oduamadi was forced off with an injury and replaced by Michel Babatunde.

Early in the second period Diego Forlan, who was winning his one hundredth cap for Uruguay at the age of thirty four, picked up a pass from Cavani and expertly shot past Enyeama in the Nigeria goal to make it 2-1 to Uruguay. La Celeste controlled much of the rest of the game and frustrated any attempts by Nigeria to get back on to level terms. They replaced striker Luis Suarez with his Liverpool team mate Sebastian Coates as they shut up shot late on in the match. The final round of matches in the group is on Sunday.

Related Links:
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Confederations Cup 2013

Confederations Cup: Nigeria 6-1 Tahiti

Nigeria 6 (Echiejile 5, 80, Oduamadi 10, 26, 76, Tehau J. o.g. 68)
Tahiti 1
(Tehau J. 54)
Mineirao, Belo Horizonte. Temp. 25°C, wind 12 mph, partly sunny. Referee: Joel Aguilar (El Salvador)

TEAMS

Nigeria: Enyeama, Echiejile, Ambrose, Omeruo (Egwuekwe 74), Oboabona, Obi Mikel, Ogude, Oduamadi, Mba (Ogu 55), Ujah (Ideye 52), Musa.
Tahiti: Samin, Ludivion, Tehau J, Vallar (Faatiarau 54), Simon (Lemaire 78), Bourebare, Tehau A, Caroine, Aitamai, Vahirua (Atani 70), Chong-Hue.

Nigeria were comfortable winners against a plucky Tahiti side with Nnamdi Oduamadi plundering a hat-trick in their opening Group B encounter, but the scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story as the Tahitians played their part in an open and attacking match. The Super Eagles were the beneficiaries of a couple of fortunate deflections in the box, but in truth, they should have scored several more.

If the Tahiti players were nervous ahead of their first competitive match on the world stage, they certainly didn’t show it in the opening few minutes and they received plenty of encouragement from the local supporters in Belo Horizonte with neutral fans vociferously supporting the minnows. However, they were brought down to earth with a bang in the fifth minute when a shot from Echiejile took a cruel double deflection and ended up in the back of their net.

Everybody loves an underdog, but Tahiti showed just why they are such underdogs at this level over the remainder of the half and Nigeria were in no mood to be generous as they raced in to a two goal lead. Striker Nnamdi Oduamadi of Varese notched up the second in only the tenth minute and fears mounted that Tahiti might be on the receiving end of a cricket score. They did weather the storm for the next quarter of an hour but their defence seemed disorganized and Nigeria continued to create good chances with alarming regularity.

In the end, the third goal was gifted to Nigeria when Tahiti goalkeeper Xavier Samin fumbled a bobbling cross from Musa and spilt the ball into the path of the advancing Oduamadi, who clinically dispatched the ball in to the empty net for his second goal of the game. Samin partly redeemed himself with a couple of fine saves before the interval and he earned loud cheers from the crowd each time he thwarted another Nigerian attack. It wasn’t exclusively one way traffic in the first half as Tahiti threw caution to the wind and pushed forward in numbers whenever they got the opportunity. They even won a corner, forced Enyeama into a couple of saves and produced a fine cross from the right that Steevy Chong-Hue couldn’t quite divert goalwards with his head.

The second half started in much the same vein with the Nigerians creating chances and Tahiti occasionally breaking. They forced another corner on one of their forays into the opposition half and then the unthinkable happened, they stunned and delighted the stadium in equal measure by actually scoring a goal! Jonathan Tehau ghosted in at the far post to head Vahirua’s corner into the Nigerian net from an acute angle and we were treated to a collective performance of their Polynesian canoeing goal celebration.

Nigeria seemed visibly rattled by the goal and their opponents grew in confidence as they realised that they were suddenly doing more than simply making up the numbers. Tahiti even had the better of the next ten minutes as the Nigerians recovered from the shock but then normal service resumed with Oduamadi thinking he had scored a hat-trick before his third goal was ruled out for offside and then the team’s fourth finally arriving in the sixty ninth minute thanks to another double deflection. Oduamadi put the ball into the six yard box and it ended up rolling into the net off the leg of Tahiti‘s goalscoring hero Jonathan Tehau.

Oduamadi did finally get his third on the break a few minutes later when he got ahead of the defence and on to the end of a low cross from Ideye on the right flank. The greater match fitness of the professional Nigerian squad was telling in the final stages against their mostly amateur opponents and they notched up their sixth a few minutes later when Echiejile pounced on a loose ball that had been pinging around in the box and buried it for his second of the game.

Nigeria will rue some wasteful finishing, especially if they end up going out of the competition on goal difference after their final group matches against Uruguay and Spain, but the evening will be remembered for Tahiti‘s historic goal and their spirited attacking performance that made this one of the more entertaining games of the 2013 Confederations cup so far.

Confederations Cup 2013: Team by Team Preview

The 2013 Confederations Cup kicks off in Brasilia on Saturday with a strong line up of teams competing in the World Cup dress rehearsal a year before the real thing takes place next summer. Most of them will expect to return for the 2014 World Cup – only Tahiti have been eliminated so far from the qualification process – so it’s a good chance for them to hone their preparations and get some valuable experience of the Brazilian conditions. Here’s our guide to the teams and how they will fare.


Team: Brazil
Manager: Luiz Felipe Scolari
Qualified as: Hosts

Last 5 results: Group A Fixtures:
Brazil 1-1 Russia (London, 25-03-2013, FR)
Bolivia 0-4 Brazil (Santa Cruz, 06-04-2013, FR)
Brazil 2-2 Chile (Belo Horizonte, 25-04-2013, FR)
Brazil 2-2 England (Rio de Janeiro, 02-06-2013, FR)
Brazil 3-0 France (Porto Alegre, 09-06-2013, FR)
Japan (Brasília, 15-06-2013)
Mexico (Fortaleza, 19-06-2013)
Italy (Salvador, 22-06-2013)

Star Player: Neymar. The Santos striker is the most exciting attacking talent in Brazilian football at the moment, but he still has a lot to prove, especially at international level. His goals record of 20 in 34 games for Brazil is impressive but, having made his debut just after the last World Cup, most of his national team experience has come in friendly matches. He did feature in the 2011 Copa America and 2012 Olympics, scoring in both tournaments, but wasn’t able to help his team to success on either occasion. It’s easy to forget that he’s still only 21 as he seems to have been in the headlines for years since he shot to prominence at a young age and led Santos to their Copa Libertadores triumph in 2011 and rarely a week has gone by in the past two years without rumours linking him with a big money move to Europe. New he’s finally heading to Barcelona to test himself in La Liga and he’ll want to leave his homeland on a high by impressing at the Confederations Cup before he starts his new adventure.

One to Watch: Oscar. The Chelsea midfielder has been playing an increasingly prominent role in the Brazil national team of late and now has seventeen caps and six goals to his name. Also only 21, he is coming into the tournament off the back of a successful first season in Europe where he excelled in the English Premier league and won the Europa league. His fleet footwork and incisive passing, not to mention his lethal shooting ability, make him an important supplier and scorer of goals and a successful Confedereations Cup campaign will go al long way towards staking his claim for a first team spot come next summer. Brazil could be building their team around him for years to come.

Prediction: We expect Brazil to rise to the occasion and put recent patchy form behind them by reaching the final of this event on their home soil. They have selected a strong and talented squad and will be treating the competition very seriously as it represents their only chance of competitive action in the build up to the World Cup finals. Home advantage should help them see off Japan and Mexico in their opening games and we expect them to win their group and reach the final, possibly against Spain, which would be a close encounter but they may just edge it. Read the rest of this entry »

Nigeria Squad for 2013 Confederations Cup

Nigeria play Namibia tomorrow in a World Cup 2014 qualifier at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek, which is their final match before they fly over to Brazil for the 2013 Confederations Cup. Coach Stephen Keshi, 51, named his final twenty three man squad for the tournament at the end of last week and included eight home based players in the party. The squad is comprised of players from nineteen different clubs, with Enugu Rangers best represented with three players and two clubs – Chelsea and Sunshine Stars – having two players each and no other club having more than one player in the squad.

The oldest and most capped player in the squad is goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama at 30, with 78 caps to his name and the top scorer is Sunday Mba with only five goals. It’s an inexperienced squad with five uncapped players: Mohammed Gambo, Anthony Ujah, Michel Babatunde, Emeka Eze and Francis Benjamin. Nigeria start their Confederations Cup Group B campaign in Belo Horizonte against Tahiti (17-06-2013) and then play Uruguay in Salvador (20-06-2013), followed by Spain in Fortaleza (23-06-2013).

The Nigeria 2013 Confederations Cup squad in full is:

Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Chigozie Agbim (Enugu Rangers), Austin Ejide (Hapoel Beer Sheva)

Defenders: Efe Ambrose (Celtic), Francis Benjamin (Heartland FC), Elderson Echiejile (Sporting Braga), Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves), Solomon Kwambe (Sunshine Stars), Godfrey Oboabona (Sunshine Stars), Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea)

Midfielders: Emeka Eze (Enugu Rangers), John Obi Mikel (Chelsea), Fegor Ogude (Valerenga), John Ogu (Academica Coimbra), Ogenyi Onazi (Lazio), Sunday Mba (Enugu Rangers)

Forwards: Joseph Akpala (Werder Bremen), Michael Babatunde (FC Kryvbas), Muhammad Gambo (Kano Pillars), Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev), Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow), Nnamdi Oduamadi (Varese), Anthony Ujah (FC Cologne)

CAF World Cup Qualification Group F: Nigeria in control as Kenya drop out

Nigeria took control of African World Cup 2014 qualifying Group F yesterday with a hard fought 1-0 away win over Kenya at the Moi International Sports Centre in Nairobi. The game was deadlocked at 0-0 for over eighty minutes until CSKA Moscow striker Ahmed Musa finally found a way past Duncan Ochieng in the Kenya goal. The win puts Nigeria top of the group on eight points from four games with two games remaining whilst Kenya stay rooted to the bottom with only two points and can no longer reach the next round because either Nigeria or Malawi is certain to exceed their maximum possible total of eight points.

In the other match in the group, Malawi drew 0-0 with Namibia at the Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre. It’s a result which does neither team many favours but it does at least keep them both in contention ahead of the final rounds of matches. The penultimate fixtures take place next Wednesday (12-06-2013) when Malawi take on Kenya in Blantyre and Namibia host Nigeria in Windhoek. The sixth and final fixtures are in September when Malawi visit Nigeria and Kenya receive Namibia.

The Group F table is now as follows:

Group F P W D L F A P
Nigeria 4 2 2 0 4 2 8
Malawi 4 1 3 0 2 1 6
Namibia 4 1 1 2 1 2 4
Kenya 4 0 2 2 1 3 2

World Cup 2010 Review: Nigeria

Nigeria got off to a nightmare start at the World Cup in South Africa, conceding after only six minutes of their opening game against Argentina and even the most optimistic fans would have feared the worst at that point, with Argentina’s star-studded forward line expected to dismantle opposition defences with ease. However, the floodgates failed to open and Lars Lagerback’s team managed to keep the score at 1-0 and even created some chances of their own but didn’t manage to find that vital equaliser.

They lost out by a one goal margin again versus Greece, despite this time taking an early lead through Kalu Uche. The Nigerian’s defensive frailties were ruthlessly exposed and a second successive defeat followed, but they weren’t out of the competition as a win against South Korea in their final game couple with an Argentina victory over the Greeks would put them through.

They gave it their best shot against the Koreans and again went ahead early on through Uche only to be pegged back before half time. Hopes begam to fade when they fell behind early in the second half, but they got back level with a penalty scored by Ayegbeni Yakubu in the 69th minute. From then on the game was extremely open with several good chances at each end, but nobody else could find the net. The defining moment that will stick in the memory of most who saw the game came when the score was still 2-1 to Korea and Yakubu missed a real sitter when presented with an open goal inside the six yard box. It looked easier to score but he put it wide and on such narrow margins can a nation’s World Cup fate be decided.

So they came within a whicker of pipping the Koreans to qualification, but in the end finished bottom of Group B with only one point to show for their efforts.

The Nigerian squad submitted to FIFA was as follows:

NUMBER – POSITION – NAME – AGE- CLUB

1 – GK – Vincent ENYEAMA – 27 – Hapoel Tel-Aviv
16 – GK – Austin EJIDE – 26 – Hapoel Petah Tikva
23 – GK – Dele AIYENUGBA – 26 – Bnei Yehuda
2 – DF – Joseph YOBO – 29 – Everton
3 – DF – Taye TAIWO – 25 – Marseille
5 – DF – Rabiu AFOLABI – 30 – Red Bull Salzburg
6 – DF – Danny SHITTU – 29 – Bolton Wanderers
17 – DF – Chidi ODIAH – 26 – CSKA Moscow
21 – DF – Uwa ECHIEJILE – 22 – Rennes
22 – DF – Dele ADELEYE – 21 – Sparta Rotterdam
4 – MF – Nwankwo KANU – 33 – Portsmouth
12 – MF – Kalu UCHE – 27 – Almeria
13 – MF – Yussuf AYILA – 25 – Dynamo Kyiv
14 – MF – Sani KAITA – 24 – Alania Vladikavkaz
15 – MF – Lukman HARUNA – 19 – Monaco
20 – MF – Dickson ETUHU – 28 – Fulham
7 – FW – John UTAKA – 28 – Portsmouth
8 – FW – Yakubu AIYEGBENI – 27 – Everton
9 – FW – Obafemi MARTINS – 25 – Wolfsburg
10 – FW – Brown IDEYE – 21 – Sochaux
11 – FW – Peter ODEMWINGIE – 28 – Lokomotiv Moscow
18 – FW – Victor OBINNA – 23 – Malaga
19 – FW – Chinedu OGBUKE OBASI – 24 – Hoffenheim

World Cup 2010 Warm Up: Nigeria 1-1 Colombia

Nigeria played their second World Cup 2010 warm up match at Stadium:mk in Milton Keynes, England, against a Colombia team who failed to qualify for the finals. Nigeria’s Swedish coach Lars Lagerback named a strong starting eleven but they were unable to gain control of the early exchanges and the Colombians took the lead in the 12th minute thanks to Santa Fe defender Carlos Valdes.

The scoreline remained unchanged until twenty minutes from full time when Nigerian substitute midfielder Lukman Haruna found an equaliser. The AS Monaco youngster fired home from outside the box to secure a draw. This result follows another draw in their opening warm up match against Saudi Arabia last week, which finished 0-0.

The Nigerian team will now travel to South Africa to complete their preparations. They face North Korea in a final friendly on the 6th of June in Johannesburg before their World Cup campaign gets underway for real six days later on the 12th of June against Diego Maradona’s Argentina, also in Johannesburg. Super Eagles coach Lars Lagerback is expected to confirm his final 23-man squad in the next few hours.

Nigeria 1-1 Colombia (30/05/2010)

Starting Line-up:
Enyeama
Afolabi
Odiah
Taiwo
Etuhu
Yussuf
Kaita
Adeleye
Yakubu
Odemwingie
Obinna

Substitutions:
46 Haruna for Yussuf
46 Martins for Yakubu
62 Uche for Odemwingie
75 Utaka for Obinna

Goals:
Valdez (12)
Haruna (71)

2010 African Cup of Nations: Ghana 1-0 Nigeria: Black Stars make Super Eagles pay for missing chances

Rennes striker Asamoah Gyan was the match-winner for Ghana

Kick-off: Thursday January 28, 16.00 GMT

Location: Estadio 11 de Novembro, Luanda, Angola

Ghana 1 (Gyan 20)

Nigeria 0

TEAMS

Ghana: Kingson – Inkoom, Vorsah, Addy, Sarpei – Ayew, Badu, Annan, Asamoah – Gyan, Opoku

Nigeria: Enyeama – Yusuf, Nwaneri, Shittu, Echiejele – Ayila, Mikel, Kaita – Obasi, Martins, Odemwingie

The first semi-final of the 2010 African Cup of Nations pitted West African rivals Nigeria and Ghana together for a place in the final in an encounter that was dominated by Nigeria in terms of chances.  However, the Super Eagles were unable to translate their oppurtunities into goals, and Ghana after snatching a lead in the first-half, defended doggedly to frustrate their more experienced opponents. 

Ghana were able to call on Rosenborg-midfielder Anthony Annan for the first time in the tournament at the heart of the team, with Dramane dropping to the bench to accommodate the change. 

Nigeria were able to start Obafemi Martins for the first time in Angola, and he came in for the disappointing Yakubu.  The availability of Martins almost paid immediate dividends when a ball was lofted into the Ghana penalty area, but just evaded the Wolfsburg-based striker, who had broken into the box. 

Ghana get into their groove

The early opening suggested it might be an exciting encounter, but the game quickly settled into a cautious pattern, with neither side too keen to commit men forward.  However, on 20 minutes Ghana stunned Nigeria by grabbing a goal from a set piece.  A well delivered out-swinging cross from the Ghana left by Kwadwo Asamoah was met by the head of Asamoah Gyan to divert the ball into the net to make it 1-0 with the Nigerian defence left static. 

Five minutes later and Gyan might have doubled Ghana’s lead when he side-footed a looping effort just over the bar.  The ball just wouldn’t quite dip enough, but it certainly had Vincent Enyeama back-peddling nervously in the Nigerian goal. 

Nigeria respond

Nigeria should have struck back on 27 minutes through Obafemi Martins.  A shot from outside the area by Peter Odemwingie fell at the feet of Martins, who found himself in the way of the effort.  The former Newcastle-forward turned on the ball in a flash, but with just the keeper to beat and from no more than 6 yards somehow managed to hit Kingson, the Ghanaian goalie. 

The Super Eagles continued to push forward for the equaliser and Uwa Echiejele, the left-back for Nigeria, curled a wonderful ball to the far post with both Martins and Odemwigie waiting with intent.  It was Odemwingie who got his head to the ball, but delivered his effort wide of the post to let Ghana off after some shabby defending. 

Just before the interval Sani Kaita let fly with a long-range effort, which had a few Nigerian supporters out of their seats.  The ball hit the stanchion and rippled the outside of the netting.  Into injury time and Peter Odemwingie attempted an effort at the near post from a short corner, although should probably have squared the pass back to the waiting Martins in the middle. 

Ghana after their goal just before the midpoint were pleased to just get into the break with their advantage intact.  After suffering several injuries during the half, which forced them into a change up front and the goalkeeper Richard Kingson having some treatment, they started dropping deep and allowing Nigeria to dominate possession.  Nigeria having created several presentable chances had been unable to take advantage of any of them, but their attacking performance was an improvement on their previous games at the 2010 African Cup of Nations.

Nigeria continued to take the game to Ghana in the second half, but it took nearly a quarter of an hour for them to create a genuine chance.  Sani Keita chipped a ball forward, which was helped on by Mikel to the onrushing Martins.  However, Martins was charged down by Richard Kingson, who made himself big to block the attempted volley.  Shortly after, the architect of that chance Mikel should have done better with a shot from outside the area, but hit his curling attempt well-wide in the end.

The Black Stars finally managed an attempt in the second half on 64 minutes when midfielder Ageymang-Badu brought a good save out of Vincent Enyeama in the Nigerian goal at his near post with a low shot.

Nigeria pay the price for profligacy

The chances continued to mount up for Nigeria when a long ball over the top on 70 minutes couldn’t quite be controlled by Obafemi Martins.  Perhaps rusty after not seeing too much action in the tournament so far the first touch just got away from Martins, and gave the covering Ghana defender Isaac Vorsah a chance to close him down.

Another outstanding Nigeria chance was passed up when recent arrival Yakubu couldn’t stab home from close range.  Good work between Obasi and Echijele down the left worked in the Rennes left-back for a crossing chance.  However, Echijele got too much on the pass into the middle, and the ball ricocheted off Yakubu’s left knee and behind.

Obafemi Martins’ pace continued to cause the Ghana defence problems when another ball over the top nearly set him away.  Once again though, Martins’ control let him down, as the difficult and patchy surface caught him out as it had on several previous occasions. 

Nigeria continued to press forward with increasing urgency as Ghana failed to hold onto the ball for any length of time, but they struggled to test the increasingly injury-hampered Richard Kingson with any regularity, and so the match was decided by the 20th minute goal in favour of Ghana.

The progress to the final for Ghana is pretty remarkable given the problems they have encountered on the way.  However, for Nigeria they will be left to wander what might have been if they had been able to call on a fully match-fit Obafemi Martins and Yakubu for the game.  They falter at the semi-final stage once again.

 

 

African Cup of Nations 2010: Ghana – Nigeria Preview

There will be plenty of pressure on Nigerian coach Shaibu Amodu

Kick-off: Thursday January 28, 16.00 GMT

Location: Estadio 11 de Novembro, Luanda

The first semi-final at the 2010 African Cup of Nations kicks off pitting two of West Africa’s giants together in a repeat of the quarter-final two seasons ago, in which Ghana prevailed.  Ghana’s young team has grown into the tournament as they have progressed, but Nigeria are still to show their full potential.

Whilst the second semi-final between Egypt and Algeria has the obvious feel of a grudge match to it, there is also something of a clash in this match too.  The youth of Ghana will be matched up against the more experienced team of Nigeria.  It will be fascinating to see whether youth and enthusiasm prevail over old-age and treachery.

Ghana growing

It’s been an African Cup of Nations that hasn’t favoured the better fancied sides with several of the well-tipped teams, such as Cameroon and the Ivory Coast, falling at the quarter-final stage.  It looked initially like Ghana’s tournament might be heading the same way when they slumped to a 3-1 defeat to the Ivory Coast in their first game in Group B and then laboured to a 1-0 victory over Burkina Faso, but things have improved gradually.

There has been plenty to cheer for fans of Ghana as the AFCON 2010 has progressed

Much of the slow start in Angola can be traced to the very difficult opening that the Black Stars endured, which included the terrorism surrounding the Togolese team in the city Ghana were also supposed to be preparing and playing in, as well as injuries to key players both before the tournament started and during.  Minus key individuals such as Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari, Ghana’s first steps in the tournament were bound to be somewhat tentative.

However, their hard-fought victory over hosts Angola in the quarter-final in front of a fiercely passionate and partisan home crowd indicates that slowly Ghana are becoming a force to be counted on.

Much credit must go to the Ghanaian management team, who after selecting several members from the successful U-20 side from the FIFA World Youth Championships held last year in Egypt, have been able to cajole some outstanding performances from their young charges. 

The difficult start at the competition has also seen Ghana dodge their usual status as one of the sides to beat, so whilst the favourites have been falling like ten-pins at a pro-bowling tournament, Ghana have been able to plot their way through to this stage in relatively unheralded fashion.

The not-so Super Eagles

Whilst it has been a tournament of progress for Ghana, the same can’t be said of Nigeria, who have stumbled through to this stage seemingly more by luck than good fortune.  After a fast start against Egypt, which saw them snatch the lead, they slumped to a 3-1 defeat in a game they were scarcely in after the first quarter of an hour.

The Super Eagles can consider themselves fortunate to have been drawn into a group which also contained Benin and Mozambique, and with the first tough match out of the way they racked up the requisite six points against the minnows.  However, although their performance against Mozambique in the final game was better than in the previous two, they were back to their jaded selves against Zambia in the quarter-finals.

It eventually took penalties to overcome the stubborn resistance of the Copper-Bullets, and in truth after half-time were distinctly second best to a side they should have been able to overcome.  Nevertheless there were some positives to be taken from the 0-0, mainly focussing on the defensive aspects of the game.  Yusuf Mohamed summed up Nigeria’s gritty determination by twice clearing Zambian shots off the line to preserve the clean-sheet and keep his side in the contest.

However, steadfastness in the face of attack is not enough to keep the Nigerian public happy, and with such playing resources available, the disappointing approach play and output in the final third is not up to scratch.

Youth vs. Experience

The match therefore is delicately poised.  On the one side is a young Ghana side that has shed its status as favourites and flourished as underdogs, and on the other a Nigerian team that is yet to fulfil its considerable potential.

Under usual circumstances Nigeria should be favourites, but given their poor performance overall in Angola. the balance might just tilt the way of Ghana.  One aspect that may favour Ghana is that they have had one day more of rest in between this game and their quarter-final. In addition they weren’t forced into a potentially wearying 30 minutes of extra-time and mentally sapping penalty shoot-out, and overall they’ve also played a game less too.  Therefore they should be more refreshed both physically and mentally than their Nigerian opponents.  Furthermore what Ghana lack for in terms of experience, they will gain back in youthful enthusiasm, and so should be better equipped to cope with the games coming so soon after another.

Team Form

Ghana

24/01/10 – Angola (a) 0-1 (2010 African Cup of Nations, Quarter-Final)

19/01/10 – Burkina Faso (n) 1-0 (2010 African Cup of Nations, Group B)

15/01/10 – Ivory Coast (n) 1-3 (2010 African Cup of Nations, Group B)

 05/01/10 – Malawi (h) 0-0 (International Friendly)

18/11/09 – Angola (a) 0-0 (International Friendly)

Nigeria

25/01/10 – Zambia (n) 0-0 (2010 African Cup of Nations, Quarter-Final)

20/01/10 – Mozambique (n) 3-0 (2010 African Cup of Nations, Group C)

16/01/10 – Benin (n) 1-0 (2010 African Cup of Nations, Group C)

12/01/10 – Egypt (n) 1-3 (2010 African Cup of Nations, Group C)

14/11/09 – Kenya (a) 2-3 (FIFA World Cup Qualifier)

Team News

Ghana

Most of Ghana’s injury woes seemed to occur pre-tournament with the loss of the like of Sulley Muntari and Stephen Appiah, followed by the subsequent departure of Michael Essien.  Since the tournament started though, Ghana have been able to get the team to full-fitness and lingering concerns over Asamoah Gyan were allayed after his outstanding contribution to the quarter-final victory against Angola.  It would therefore be no surprise to see Milovan Rajevac name an unchanged side in comparison to the team that took to the field on Sunday.

Nigeria

Whilst Ghana appear to have overcome their injury misery, the same can’t be said of Nigeria, who have been plagued throughout the 2010 African Cup of Nations.  Obafemi Martins has struggled with a shin injury and even spent some time back in Europe to get treatment on it.  Fellow striker Yakubu has looked far from match fit, whilst his club-colleague Joseph Yobo has been forced out of the tournament entirely with a hamstring pull. 

As if all the injuries weren’t enough, they will also have to do without the suspended Onyekachi Apam, who saw red for two bookings against Zambia.  That may see Swiss-based Obinna Nwaneri come into the starting XI in his place.

Players to Watch

Ghana

Two players that have really blossomed at the 2010 African Cup of Nations are central midfielders Kwadwo Asamoah and Emmanuel Agyemang Badu.  Both with Udinese in Serie A, the pair look to have an exciting future ahead of them based on their performances in Angola.  Nevertheless they will need to be at the top of their game to cope with a Nigerian midfield packed with experience and power.

Nigeria

 It was another below-par performance against Zambia in the attack, and Nigeria simply must get Peter Odemwingie and Chinedu Obasi into the match more.  Both are lively attackers both through the channels and in the middle, and can cause any team a problem if given enough service. 

Prediction

Taking into account Ghana’s extra fitness and youthfulness over their opponents combined with Nigeria’s lacklustre tournament, the Black Stars should prevail on this occasion.  It will however be a tight game, as Nigeria will be difficult to break down, so don’t expect a feast of goals.

Ghana 1-0 Nigeria

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