- Title: VARIOUS: Nigeria on the verge of the World Cup, but Ethiopia wont make it easy
- Date: 14th November 2013
- Summary: LAGOS, NIGERIA (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF SPORTS ANALYST READING NEWSPAPER (SOUNDBITE) (English) KAYODE TIJANI, SPORTS ANALYST, SAYING: "Because Ethiopia will probably want to play, they are not the kind of team that sits back and lets you come, they need to win so they will want to play and they are a very good team but now it's different. All the frenzy, all the altitude, all the factors in Ethiopia, you're playing away, you're seeing all their red jerseys and all, it was scary, trust me."
- Embargoed: 29th November 2013 12:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Topics: Sports
- Reuters ID: LVABP40IGT398BJ76CFIWLEN498R
- Story Text: Playing in Addis Ababa's main square - a concrete surface turned into a pitch by a group of football crazed Ethiopian boys, is the perfect place to test their soccer skills in the Ethiopian capital.
This kind of street football - the only option for a city with few public playing fields, was the humble beginning for many of players in the country's national team - one whose standing in world football has struggled since winning the African Cup of Nations in 1962.
Ethiopia is a country more renowned for churning out some of the world's greatest long-distance runners.
But lately, it has been making its mark on African football as a force to be reckoned with.
Here, at the Meskel square 'pitch', the national team's improvement has not gone unnoticed.
"I think the reason is that the players are very motivated. They implement the instructions from the coach very well. Previously they used to just play the game but nowadays they seem to be very tactical. The fact that they are implementing the strategies from their coach and we are now getting some professional players is really helping the team," said Daniel Mitiku, a young college student.
Months after their first appearance at the Nations Cup since 1982, the Walyas - named after an antelope endemic to the country - will face reigning African champions Nigeria in the return leg of a playoff round scheduled to take place at the U.J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar on Saturday (November 16).
A World Cup berth may appear unlikely after their home defeat to Nigeria but coach Sewnet Bishaw told Cafonline.com that he is "cautiously optimistic" about facing the Super Eagles.
Sewnet has built a side that is comfortable in possession, but admits his team lacks experience and is prone to making mistakes.
Political turmoil in the 1970s and 1980s cast Ethiopia into the footballing wilderness, and some of the country's best players kept hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons by absconding while on international duty.
Analysts says lack of organisation and infighting at Ethiopia's Football Federation was also to blame for lack of results. The Walyas were hampered by a managerial merry-go-round that saw 15 appointments in 11 years.
Wrangling reached its peak in 2008 with a FIFA ban following a power tussle amongst the country's football chiefs.
Birhanu Kebede, the football federation's outgoing vice president says there have been a lot of changes in the last four years.
"We started to believe in our people. Like the coach. We tried several coaches from outside and it didn't work for us. Then we want to change the way we have been thinking. That was very helpful for us and we gave time for our national coach and I think those are the successes," he said.
Nigeria have already expressed that they will not be underestimating the Ethiopian side.
The Super Eagles came from behind to snatch a last-gasp 2-1 win over Ethiopia in the first leg of their playoff in Addis Ababa after two goals from Emmanuel Emenike helped them take a big step towards next year's finals in Brazil.
The two teams have met eight times, with Nigeria winning five of those matches.
Ethiopia recorded a famous victory against the Super Eagles in a 1994 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, while two further fixtures have ended in draws.
Nigerian sports analyst, Kayode Tijani says Nigeria has proven to be the stronger side and will do well especially on home turf but they must watch out for the Walyas slick passing and high pressure game.
"Because Ethiopia will probably want to play, they are not the kind of team that sits back and lets you come, they need to win so they will want to play and they are a very good team but now it's different. All the frenzy, all the altitude, all the factors in Ethiopia, you're playing away, you're seeing all their red jerseys and all, it was scary, trust me," said Tijani.
The Super Eagles team are already in camp training for the crucial qualifier game.
"It's game over to me we are in Brazil, I'm not even thinking about the second leg, it's a mere formality. I'm sorry I'm sounding this confident but if we had drawn or lost that first leg, that first leg game, I would have been really afraid, trust me on that. It's 'fait accompli', completely finished, simple," he added.
In the meantime, Ethiopian football fans remain ecstatic about their team's achievements so far and the outcome. While the game against Nigeria seems mostly in the hosts favour, fans back home will rooting for Ethiopia not to lose its new shine.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None