NIGERIA VS ETHIOPIA: Is Nigeria the End of the Road for Walia Antelopes Fantasy Run to Brazil?

Saladin Said, Ethiopian Top Scorer
 Ethiopia national team fondly called, Walia Antelopes, may have surprised themselves running tops in the second round group stage of 2014 World cup qualifiers. The team which just returns to its first international competition this year, after 31 years of absence, may have found themselves in wonderland.

Indeed, it’s a kind of fantasy race for the Walia Antelopes, running over countries that include: South Africa, Botswana and Central African Republic, to get to the play offs.  And now, a whole country of over 91 million people is already dreaming of getting to Brazil in 2014 for their first ever World cup finals.

But Ethiopians lamented after the draw in Cairo Egypt on Tuesday, September 16, brought a new dimension to the road map. Walia Antelopes must now cross over Nigeria, if they must get to Brazil. That isn’t an easy task at all. Reality may have done on them that this may just be the end of the road for their team.

Nigeria is a very familiar foe. Both countries have met 7 times and Nigeria has always had the head to head aggregate win. Nigeria won 4 times and had 2 draws. The recent matches being 2012 Africa cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers in Abuja and 2013 AFCON finals in South Africa. Nigeria won in both occasions 4 – 0 and 2 – 0 respectively.

But Ethiopia national team coach, Sewnet Bishaw, is very optimistic: “The team has improved tremendously since we last met Nigeria in 2013 AFCON finals in South Africa. Walia Antelopes is playing fantastic football now. And with players likeSaladin Said , our top scorer, we can get the job done in Addis Ababa.”

Ethiopia Climate Forecast

Team captain, Degu Debebe, recalls Ethiopia’s famous 1 – 0 victory over Nigeria in 1994 AFCON qualifiers in Addis Ababa. He said: “Nigeria teams find it very difficult to play well in our climate, which is forecast to be relatively humid, around 45 degree  average temperatures (between 11 – 15 October 2013) when the first leg match will hold in Addis Ababa Stadium.”

Debebe further stated: “We know it isn’t going to be easy for us in Nigeria. So, we can get more goals in Addis Ababa and get ready for the battle ahead in Abuja (between15 – 19 November 2013).”

Nigeria national team, Super Eagles, is flying high right now and there’s no stopping them, not even the lofty dreams of Ethiopian populace. The team came tops in every competition it ever participated in Africa this year. Nigeria is the current African champions and recently won the Mandela Challenge trophy in South Africa.

Although, some Nigerian sports analysts felt Nigeria should have been ranked better than 36th position, since Super Eagles have defeated Cote d’ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso this year. Yet at 36th position, Nigeria is far ranked above Ethiopia, which occupies 57th position in the latest FIFA Rankings.

Super Eagles take no foe with its star studded team: Mikel Obi (Chelsea), Victor Moses (Liverpool), Shola Ameobi (Newcastle), Emmanuel Emernike (Franabache), Eddy Onazi (Lazio)… They may just be too much for the Ethiopian side. Stephen Keshi said: “We’re not letting down the Ethiopian team in any way, but our aim is to go to Addis Ababa and win, it’ll bring down all the pressures of the final game in Nigeria.”

Head to Head Results
·         Nigeria 3 Vs Ethiopia 0, 1982 Nations cup finals.
·         Ethiopia 0 Vs Nigeria 0, 1993 Friendly match, Addis Ababa
·         Ethiopia 1 Vs Nigeria 0, 1994 Nation cup 1st leg qualifier, Addis Ababa
·         Nigeria 6 Vs Ethiopia 0, 1994 Nation cup 2nd leg qualifier, Lagos
·         Ethiopia 2 Vs Nigeria 2, 2012 AFCON 1st leg qualifier, Addis Ababa
·         Nigeria 4 Vs Ethiopia 0, 2012 AFCON 2nd leg qualifier, Abuja
·         Nigeria 2 Vs Ethiopia 0 2013 AFCON finals, South Africa

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