Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast favoured to progress to Brazil 2014
NIGERIA are poised to qualify for the World Cup finals this weekend, taking a lead into their home tie with Ethiopia, while Cameroon and the Ivory Coast look to finish off Tunisia and Senegal respectively.
The African champions beat Ethiopia 2-1 in the first leg qualifier in Addis Ababa last month, giving them the edge for today’s return leg in Calabar.
But Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi is wary of complacency, as they eye their fifth appearance at the finals.
“Yes, we may have the advantage but we are not considering that right now,” he said. “Our focus is to qualify for the World Cup and winning one game does not guarantee us a ticket, so we need to get the result today.”
Nigeria has a solid record against Ethiopia, having won five times in eight encounters and forward Victor Moses was confident of victory.
“We will win for the country and qualify for the World Cup,” said Moses, who this week made the shortlist for the BBC African Footballer of the Year award.
Nigeria are without midfielder Nosa Igiebor and Uche Nwofor through injury.
Ethiopia have been boosted by the return from South Africa striker Getaneh Kebede, who scored four goals in the qualifiers but missed the first leg with an ankle injury.
Striker Saladin Said said Ethiopia were still in with a chance. “Nigeria might have the upper hand by virtue of the away goal but I believe it is not over until the 90 minutes.”
Also today, Ivory Coast take on Senegal on neutral territory in Casablanca, Morocco, after rioting marred an Africa Cup of Nations’ qualifier between the two sides last year.
The Elephants are favourites going into the tie after last month’s first leg in Abidjan, but Senegal snatched a potentially crucial away goal in the 3-1 defeat.
Ivory Coast will be without defenders Arthur Boka and Siaka Tiene through injury while midfielder Chieck Tiote is suspended.
In a surprise move, Senegal have dropped Demba Ba, amid suggestions of differences between the striker and coach Alain Giresse.
Tomorrow, six-time World Cup finalists Cameroon face off against Tunisia in Yaounde, with all to play for after a 0-0 draw in Tunis in the first leg.
The Indomitable Lions will again be led by Samuel Eto’o, who is finding his feet in the English Premier League with Chelsea after being off-loaded by Russian Premier League outfit Anzhi Makhachkala.
But Eto’o has sparked controversy by alleging that other players had been told not to pass to him.
“It is sad to say it but it is true,” said Eto’o, who was persuaded by the country’s president to come out of international retirement. “If I moved so much towards the midfield against Tunisia, it is because I knew about it already.
“But on Sunday, we’re talking about Cameroon, our country. We must put our problems behind us and play for Cameroon.”
Tunisia’s coach Ruud Krol said he was expecting Cameroon to attack, in contrast to their mainly defensive approach in the first game.
“We played to score while trying not to concede a goal. In Cameroon, we will play to keep a clean sheet while trying to score,” said Krol. – Sapa-AFP