Ambrose Ehirim/The Ambrose Ehirim Files
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan Tuesday, February 5, 2013 speaking to every Eagles player on the phone while they train for the semis against Mali on Wednesday at the Moses Mabhida Sports Stadium in Durban, South Africa, promised to show up for the finals on Sunday, February 10, 2013 if the ego-tripping Eagles overcomes Mali, the troubled nation fighting to get rid of Al Qaeda in its midst.
The Eagles who did not train yesterday upon arrival to Durban due to travel delays and a pouring rain worked out Tuesday February 5, and on the line up, a little bit of changes with Fegor Ogude who comes back after a one match suspension.
The Malians also had the same hiccups. Goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa will be on the line-up for his Malian Eagles after a one match suspension.
Malians are not pumping chest yet. A country now in turmoil fighting a war that was not the making of the players who have taken the responsibility to help its nation by way of financial support to win a must war in order for peace to prevail in their land. My heart goes out to them.
Stephen Keshi, Nigeria's coach is not underrating the Malian Eagles and is giving them all due respects as far as the game goes. Keshi coached the Malian team for two years (2008-2008) with most of the players still intact which gives him the advantage for plots to beat the unpredictable Les Aigles. "Mali is a football nation, they have great talent. I have a lot of admiration for Mali's team in the competition, and we intend to approach this game the same way we approach every game," Keshi said.
Keshi is confident his boys will clear the hurdle against Mali despite a negative talking Nigerian fans when he told the press: "Somehow, the Nigerian fans don't appreciate their players. But I know my team. I know their mentality. I know the boys I picked were right. I have confidence in them."
And going by statistics since the tournament began in 1963, Nigeria has appeared a number of sixteen times (1963, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010), winning in two occasions, 1980 and 1994; compared to the Malians seven appearances (1972, 1994, 2002, 2004 2008, 2010 and 2012), with the trophy not yet in its books makes Mali more desperate and hungry to taste from the cups fountain, while Nigeria, judging from its capacity and the number of showings with two to its credit, Keshi's-coached Eagles are more thirsty.