Few weeks to the all-important African Cup of Nations’, AFCON’s, qualifier football game between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Pharaohs of Egypt, it looks like the former is camping at the dreaded shores of the Red Sea.
On the opposite, and in this present situation, the Super Eagles of Nigeria are not just praying to run across; they are working with sweats dripping down their panties for a return ticket.
The darling team of near 200 million Nigerians must cross the Red Sea twice. On both journeys, the team must come out without a defeat. That will be a sure guaranty for the ticket to the AFCON to be hosted by Gabon in 2017. The two-legged duel is slated for 25th and 27th of March with the first leg at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna. But like biblical Red Sea, how does the team move through it without drowning? With the recent changes in the coaching and management, can Samson Siasia be the “New Moses” to lead it through? To harden up the
task, the team must have to get to the other end and also negotiate a return back to the beginning. Consequently, it is a two-way journey rather the historical one-thoroughfare.
We may ask, does the “New Moses”, Samson Siasia have the magical rod to open up the Red Sea? That is the big question! After the short and most turbulent reign of the “African Pep Guardiola”, Sunday Oliseh, and the resignation of a number of senior and regular players like Emmanuel Emenike and Vincent Enyeama, the atmosphere looks uncertain and getting results dicey.
On the contrary, there is still a “thick” list of players, both local and foreign-based that can get the job done. Ahmed Musa is a regular at his club and recently scored to help his team maintain the top spot in the league. John Mikel Obi, “the catalyst”, has surprisingly become a regular under the Chelsea FC caretaker coach, Guus Hinddick. Odion Ighalo is the goal-king at Watford FC; one of the surprise packages of the present English Premier League. Every game has its own peculiarity anyway!
The Pharaohs are presently 53 on the FIFA ranking while The Super Eagles are 62. They boast of a number of players that can readily put fear in the hearts of the opposing team. Mohammed Salah is a big threat on the flanks and he is doing that very regularly for FC Roma of Italy. The diminutive forward is a good dribbler and very fast on counter-attacks. Some of those were seen at the UEFA Champions’ League match against Real Madrid FC, recently.
Mohamed Elneny may not be getting enough playtimes yet at Arsenal FC, but he is still as dangerous as ever. The midfielder joined the London football club in January, and the Super Eagles must be wary of him. Coach Héctor Cúper has a team brimming of stars. Hossam Ghaly is still the captain and is at the head of a strong list of home-based players made up of those mainly from Al-Ally and Zamalek FCs.
History has it that both countries have confronted each other on fifteen occasions with the Super Eagles winning seven times, drawing four and losing four, too. In the last three editions of the AFCON, the Nigerian team has failed to qualify twice: 2012 and 2015. The “New Moses”, Samson Siasia, was an architect of one of these two unforgettable situations. Now that the Pharaohs of Egypt are the Red Sea the Super Eagles of Nigeria must cross to get to Gabon 2017, will the “New Moses”, Samson Siasia deliver?