Monday, March 28, 2016

Alexandria: All or Nothing.....

Nigeria's game against Egypt away in Alexandria on tuesday is now all or nothing. The sudden withdrawal of Chad over the weekend, eliminated the chance for a second placed team qualifying for the 2017 Cup of African Nations (CAN) finals from Group G. Nigeria must NOW WIN in Alexandria to reach the CAN finals. Anything but victory, virtually eliminates Nigeria. Surely,  and mathematically, a draw can still get Nigeria through but it means Nigeria must hope Tanzania beats Egypt and that Nigeria wins big against Tanzania. Those possibilities are slim. The surest route, therefore, is a win in Alexandria.

Nigeria will miss the service of starting goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme, on Tuesday. He will be one of a few projected regulars absent from this encounter. However, when Nigeria's skipper Mikel Obi walks into Alexandria Tuesday the focus will not be on those absent but on those present and ready to win the game. Mikel is without a win as captain of Nigeria after losing in his first two captainship -- 1-3 to Argentina in 2011 (Friendly) and the 1-1 draw v Egypt on Friday. He has to win this time or there will be no 2017 Nations Cup dream for Nigeria. Shortly after the friday 1-1 tie with Egypt, Mikel issued what amounted to a battle cry for his players to buckle up and prepare for an Alexandria victory. The Nigerian nation now clings on that hope.

To be certain, tuesday's game will not be for the faint-hearted. The string of flare of hope is that Nigeria goes into this game knowing that its team has often delivered away from home when faced with seemingly unsurmountable obstacles. In 2001, faced with difficulties in its World Cup qualifying group, Nigeria went to Omdurman to trounce its host Sudan 4-0 for a team away record. In 2005, after a 1-1 draw at home against Angola in a World Cup/CAN qualifier, Nigeria fired the coach but went to Algeria to stun their host 5-2 and revive hopes of qualification. In 2009, Nigeria needed an away win in Nairobi to reach the World Cup finals and it produced it with a 3-2 victory. On Tuesday, Nigeria faces such a huge test this time in Alexandria, Egypt.

However, this is Nigeria's stiffest test yet. Nigeria has never won a game in Egypt and has not even earned a tie against Egypt away from home. Yet, Nigeria must win tuesday to keep CAN qualification alive. It will be difficult but Nigeria is capable of doing it for history and posterity. 

Weather in Alexandria: 59-62  degrees Fahrenheit and Sunny.

Game Time: 7:00p.m.

Referee: Daniel Bennett (South Africa).

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