SPORTSTHOUGHT WITH SEGUN PRECIOUS
As the Super Eagles of Nigeria battle the Mediterranean Knights of Libya on Saturday at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital, South South Nigeria, the only obstacle to victory are the players themselves.
The earlier boastful coach of the Libyans, Adel Amrouche quit his post on Tuesday, citing nonpayment of his entitlements for six months and interference on his technical crew by some selfish federation officials. He was quoted as saying after their draw against South Africa last month: “Believe me, I prefer to play Nigeria than Bafana Bafana because I have this experience to play against Nigeria. “For me, Bafana they have fantastic players and it’s not easy to play Bafana Bafana,”.
“I am ready for Nigeria, if they want to play two times in Nigeria, we play two times in Nigeria. “They believe on juju too much, and we believe on God. It’s not easy to play in South Africa.”
I believe the above statement made by Amrouche- though he recanted and apologized few days later- was enough to fire up the Nigerian players to inflict maximum damage on the team and ultimately the coach. He however chickened out before the match.
As I am typing this, Libya sits pretty top of Group E of 2019 AFCON qualifiers with four points followed by South Africa also with four points but inferior goals difference. Nigeria lies third with three points after unfortunately losing the first match to South Africa 2-0 in Uyo last year and then beat Seychelles 3-0. Libya whitewashed whipping boys Seychelles 5-1 in the opening group game.
Nigeria has a good record against Libya with the recent one a slim one win in the AFCON CHAN earlier this year in Morocco. However, Coach Gernot Rohr has invited 24 players for the encounter where some pundits saw as an overkill with only Ikechukwu Ezenwa as the only home based.
It is expected that the best legs will make the 18-man match day squad, thanks to players like Isaac Success, who is rich in form at the moment after his misadventure last season. The prodigiously talented Watford forward was in the news for the wrong reasons last season, but he’s back now.
All said the Nigeria has the quality to thrash Libya but have to avoid complacency. The Libyans will be determined to prove that despite their coach quitting in the build up to the match, they can still bite. They’ll surely sit back and seek to exploit the counter attack option and coach the hosts unawares when they get carried away. The Uyo fans must remain patient unlike their Lagos counterpart even if the goals are not coming early.
Finally, I wish the Eagles all the best in the double header. You can follow me on twitter @precioussegun