Beating Nigeria would be stuff of legend

First Round: Return leg fixtures (*1st round result)This weekendBenin         vs     Ethiopia*Ethiopia         0-0     Benin*Nigeria         vs     Rwanda
Bokota Labama being pulled back by Benin defender Jordan Adeoti during last weekend’s 2014 World Cup qualifier. The striker, despite his goal, is likely to start on the bench today. The New Times / T. Kisambira.
Bokota Labama being pulled back by Benin defender Jordan Adeoti during last weekend’s 2014 World Cup qualifier. The striker, despite his goal, is likely to start on the bench today. The New Times / T. Kisambira.

First Round:
Return leg fixtures (*1st round result)
This weekend
Benin         vs     Ethiopia
*Ethiopia         0-0     Benin
*Nigeria         vs     Rwanda
*Rwanda         0-0     Nigeria
Uganda         vs     Congo Brazzaville
*Congo         3-1     Uganda
Zimbabwe     vs     Burundi
*Burundi         2-1     Zimbabwe
Algeria         vs     The Gambia
*The Gambia     1-2     Algeria
Togo         vs     Kenya
*Kenya         2-1     Togo
Cameroon         vs            Guinea Bissau
*Guinea Bissau 0-1       Cameroon
Malawi         vs     Chad
*Chad         3-2     Malawi
Mozambique     vs     Tanzania
*Tanzania     1-1              Mozambique
Egypt         vs            CAR   24/06/12:
CAR         vs     Egypt

First leg delayed because of political problems in Egypt
Cape Verde     vs     Madagascar
*Madagascar     0-4     Cape Verde
Namibia         vs     Liberia
*Liberia         1-0     Namibia
Sierra Leone     vs     Sao Tome
*Sao Tome    2-1                Sierra Leone
DR Congo         vs     Seychelles
*Seychelles     0-4     DR Congo

It is absolutely normal for one to state how in football anything can happen, and it’s true that some Amavubi fans believe the team can surprise Nigeria’s Super Eagles when the two teams meet this evening in the return leg of their 2013 Nations Cup qualifier in Calabar.

Traditionally, on paper, odds-wise, as well as the importance of the outcome and basically in every sense of football, this game looks a straightforward home win. If somehow Amavubi manage to upset the tradition, then we shall be talking about something historical.

Both teams are coming off disappointing draws in their most recent outings and ironically both appear to enjoy common causes, with the most obvious being their wastefulness infront of the opposition goal.

Nigeria were held (away) to 1-1 draw by Malawi in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier, while Rwanda settled for a similar result against Benin in the same competition at home.

However, whereas Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi has the luxury to drop star striker Victor Moses and John Utaka as he goes for goals, his opposite number Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojovic has very few options outside of what we already know.

Keshi, who along with Micho was on Ferwafa’s shot list to replace Sellas Tetteh as Amavubi coach, has been frustrated by the contribution of his Europe-based stars, both of whom have not yet to score for the Super Eagles during his reign.

According to reports coming from Calabar, the former Super Eagles captain is likely to opt for Enyimba striker Uche Kalu and CSKA Moscow’s Ahmed Musa.

If you think Micho is under pressure to produce the goods, especially after the last couple of results and below par performances, his counterpart Keshi could be living on borrowed time despite the fact the fact that he has been in the job barely a year.

Both coaches have their jobs laying in the hands of their strikers. Both are concerned over their teams’ poor scoring record. Nigeria only managed two goals while Rwanda scored just one in two World Cup qualifiers this month.

Where will goals come from?

Amavubi Stars have scored just three goals in the last five matches and conceded 12 in the process, and following what we witnessed against Benin, it is highly unlikely that Micho’s strikers can find their scoring touch in what will be a hostile atmosphere.

Last Sunday, we saw that the Serb coach was adventurous in his approach, starting with an attack-minded team (4-3-3) that included three players Elias Uzamukunda, Olivier Karekezi and Meddie Kagere leading at the top.

He was unfortunate to lose Uzamukunda early on through injury, which forced him to revert the orthodox 4-4-2 when Dady Biriro came on but still no goals were forthcoming.

He kept the same formation in the second half, but it was not until the introduction of Bokota Labama that Amavubi’s attack looked more threatening.

Bokota’s goal, which he created for himself by winning the penalty, coupled with Uzamukunda’s absence, leaves Micho with a selection headache concerning who starts this evening.

Playing away from and against better opposition, Micho won’t have the luxury to start with an all-out attacking team, so does he start with two strikers or go with one and pack the midfield or be open as he set out his team against Benin?

One thing for certain is that he won’t make any changes to the team that started played against Benin after the injury to Uzamukunda. Captain Karekezi, who has been ineffective in the last two games, is expected to keep his place and Jean Baptiste Mugiraneza is likely to start on the bench once more.

In the corresponding fixture, Amavubi created enough scoring opportunities to win any game but the lack of prowess by the forwards left the Super Eagles off the hook, something that may come back to bite them hard this evening.

Unlike the harmless Benin’s Squirrels that scored from one chance and still got an important away point, the hungry Super Eagles will be desperate to neutralise any possible venom from the Wasps, who are at times toothless to bite and in most cases even wingless to fly.


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