The race to be amongst the 32 countries that will participate at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil intensifies tomorrow, with African champions, the Super Eagles of Nigeria battling the Harambee Stars of Kenya at the U,J Esuene Stadium in Calabar.
Nigeria are amongst the legion of teams that will be battling to improve their chances of booking a qualification ticket to next year’s tournament, which is one that all teams are dying to be a part of. It so happens that the 2014 FIFA World Cup is going to be the 20th edition, and is scheduled to take place in Brazil from June 12 to July 13, 2014.
This is going to be the second time that Brazil will be hosting the competition, the first being the 1950 edition. Brazil is scheduled to become the fifth country to have hosted the FIFA World Cup twice, after Mexico, Italy, France and Germany.
It is scheduled to be the first World Cup to be held in South America since the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina, the first time two consecutive World Cups are staged outside Europe and the first time two consecutive World Cups are staged in the Southern Hemisphere (the last edition was held in South Africa). This will be first FIFA World Cup to use goal-line technology..
So a lot of history is associated with the 2014 World Cup. And that in part explains why teams like the Super Eagles, are pushing for their place in it.
After the safari in South Africa, where they won the AFCON, the Eagles return to the trenches for the match against Kenya, with referee Joshua Bondo from Botswana expected to be the man at the centre.
Nigeria lead the group, comprising Namibia, Kenya and Malawi. A win will take the coach Stephen Keshi-trained side to seven points and put them in pole position to get the lone ticket to the final round, where they are expected to play a two-legged fixture against another winner of one of the 10 African groups.
The winner of the final round qualifies for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which is one of the mandates in Keshi’s contract with the Nigeria Football Federation .
The former Eagles captain, will be counting on his troops, consisting of nine stars of the domestic league to cut Kenya to size. The ;likes of Sunday Mba, who scored the goal that won the Nations Cup for Nigeria, will be seeking to use the game to silence his critics, who have said that he has been weighed down by the transfer saga that is hanging over his small shoulders.
Seattle Sounders striker, Obafemi Martins makes a return, with an opportunity to prove to Keshi that he is still relevant to the Eagles set us. Since making his international debut in 2004, Martins has scored 18 goals in 38 appearances for Nigeria.
He used to be a force to be reckoned with and with Emenike ruled out of the match, Martins will fancy his chances of getting the leading striker’s role ahead of Brown Ideye. With Chelsea’s Victor Moses providing the telling passes, the former Newcastle and Levante star, will fancy his chances of scoring.
On arrival, some Eagles foreign stars like Martins, Moses, Mikel and Oduamadi, were unequivocal in their belief that Kenya will be roundly beaten tomorrow.
“We are here for the victory and I do not see Kenya stopping us. They will fall”, said Mikel.
“We will carry the day. Victory is ours and no matter what Kenya play tomorrow, the result will not favour them”, said Moses, the Chelsea star in the making.
“After our victory at the Nations Cup, the next target is to qualify for the World Cup and Kenya cannot be the ones to stop us”, noted Nnamdi Oduamadi.
“I want to help Nigeria win and I believe that we will come out victorious:, said returnee Martins.
In some selected African fixtures, Gabon and Congo square up in Point Noire, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, still smarting from their absence at the last AFCON in South Africa, welcome the Hawks of Togo to Yaounde, where anything short of a home win will be considered a sin, Cote d”Ivoire host The Gambia in Abidjan, Senegal and Angola tango in Conakry, Nations Cup finalists, Burkina Faso attempt to bounce back from their final defeat to Nigeria, when they take on Niger Republic in Ouagadougou, while Kumasi will be the stage for the clash between the Black Stars of Ghana and Sudan. In other selected matches from the world, Colombia are at home against Bolivia, Montevideo is on the boil for the titanic clash between Uruguay and Paraguay, Netherlands will hope to feast on lowly Estonia in Amsterdam, Buenos Aires is the setting for the game featuring a Lionel Msssi’-propped Argentina and Venezuela while German coach, Joaquim Low takes his wards to Astana to face Kazakhstan.
Elsewhere in Europe, defending champions, Spain host Finland, where the target will not be about winning but how many goals the La Rojas will score, emotions will be high in Glasgow when Scotland play Wales and Coach Roy Hodgson will fancy his Three Lions chances of picking all three points when they play San Marino in Serravalle.