Match - Sat 9 June, 14:30, Calabar
|2. (90 + 2’)||0. (90’)|
Can Eagles 'small boys' pass through Malawi Flames?
John Utaka celebrates his goal against Malawi nine years ago...
Malawi consider Nigeria current players as “small boys” as the Eagles are without several of their top stars like Chelsea midfielder Mikel Obi and skipper Joseph Yobo.
And against Namibia last weekend, coach Stephen Keshi started as many as five players from the widely disparaged Nigeria Premier League.
On Sunday in Calabar, the Brave Warriors were left off the hook by the poor finishing of Keshi’s team and so departed Nigeria with a flattering 1-0 defeat.
Keshi has admitted his strikers as well as the entire team are under pressure to deliver.
“The team and particularly the strikers are under tremendous pressure to deliver and that is why they make mistakes in front of goal and in the process it comes out to haunt them,” the Eagles handler said.
“We must be patient with the team and the strikers and very soon the goals will start rolling in aplenty.
“But are Nigerians ready to be patient? That is the big question”.
He added: “Gradually, we will overcome the poor scoring credentials of the team, because what we are doing at the moment is building a new team in the midst of crucial qualifiers, which is very difficult to do.”
Montpellier striker John Utaka scored the match winner when both teams last clashed in March 2003 in Blantyre.
He made a long-awaited comeback to the Eagles against Namibia on Sunday and has promised to again deliver in Malawi.
“It’s been a long time since that game was played, but if history beckons on me I will grab the opportunity with both hands”, vowed the 30-year-old striker.
Defensive midfielder Fengor Ogude has regained full fitness after missing the Namibia game, but Italy-based winger Nnamdi Oduamadi has again been ruled out due to a hip injury he suffered in training.
Sone Aluko from Scottish team Glasgow Rangers did not feature in the team’s last game and has struggled with a stomach upset apparently due to a change in diet.
He did not train with the rest of the squad on Wednesday but officials assure there is no cause for concern.
Malawi were the better team against hosts Kenya in their own opening qualifier in Nairobi as the Harambee Stars had a lot to thank goalkeeper Boniface Otieno for pulling off several top saves.
Their strike force of Black Leopards of South Africa striker Davie Banda and the vastly experienced Russel Mwafulirwa asked several questions of the Kenyan defence and they will do likewise in front of their fans on the artificial pitch of the Kamuzu Banda Stadium in Blantyre from 1.30pm Nigerian time Saturday.