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Battle of Namboole: Eagles stake pride against Cranes

Posted by By EMMA NJOKU on 2007/06/02 | Views: 1193 |

Battle of Namboole: Eagles stake pride against Cranes


The atmosphere inside the main bowl of the Mandela Stadium in Namboole would be charged this afternoon, as the Cranes of Uganda square up against Nigeria’s Super Eagles in what appears to be more of an ego clash than actually a Nations Cup qualifier.

The atmosphere inside the main bowl of the Mandela Stadium in Namboole would be charged this afternoon, as the Cranes of Uganda square up against Nigeria’s Super Eagles in what appears to be more of an ego clash than actually a Nations Cup qualifier.

Aptly tagged the ‘Battle of Namboole’, today’s encounter, which is the reverse fixture of the March 24 first leg clash at the M.K.O. Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta, Ogun State, promises to produce fireworks, as both sides are poised to prove a point.

The Ugandans had cried foul over the 1–0 scoreline against them in the Abeokuta clash, insisting that the Senegalese centre referee denied them a respectable away draw by disallowing their last minute equalising goal.

Chants of revenge are, therefore, expected to rent the air at the venue of the crunchy tie, as Ugandans would turnout in their numbers to cheer their darling team to victory against the star-studded Eagles.
If the preparations by the Cranes are anything to go by, the Super Eagles must play the game of their lives if they look to leave the stadium with their heads high at the end of the battle.

The last time both teams met in Abeokuta, the Cranes showed little respect for the Super Eagles, who paraded virtually all the dreaded names in the Nigerian squad save for Middlesborough forward, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, who was out of action due to match ban. The Ugandans took the game to the Eagles from the blast of the whistle on a day the Nigerian side failed to justify their pedigree.

The Ugandans have not pretended about how serious and important today’s return leg is to them. To underscore their determination to burst Super Eagles’ ego and that of Nigeria, the Ugandans set up a trust fund and followed it up with a fund-raising exercise to generate funds in support of the Cranes to crush the Eagles in Kampala.

While the Super Eagles’ response to camp invitation has been anything but encouraging, the Cranes are said to have demonstrated total commitment to victory in today’s clash, if only to prove that they are not inferior to the Super Eagles.
The Ugandans had, after the first leg encounter in Abeokuta, vowed to rubbish the highly-rated Nigerian national team in Kampala during the return leg.

Win or lose, Nigeria remain atop the table in Group 3 in the race to Ghana 2008 Nations Cup. The Eagles have nine points from three games, while Ugandan Cranes are second with four points from same number of matches. Niger Republic and Lesotho complete the group.
Although the outcome of today’s encounter won’t affect the positions of both the Super Eagles and the Cranes, the Ugandans are more interested in demystifying the Eagles.

Reports from Super Eagles’ camp are disturbing. The spate of injuries among the players, particularly in midfield department, paint a picture of gloom. Seyi Olofinjana, Yusuf Ayila and Christian Obodo are all ruled out of today’s clash. But more worrisome is the rumour that Chelsea of England mercurial midfielder, John Mikel Obi, is not likely to feature against the Cranes due to alleged injury.
Obi has not shown enough interest to be part of the battle in Kampala.

Ditto, for Newcastle of England pacy forward, Obafemi Martins, who shunned last weekend’s build-up match against the Harambee Stars of Kenya, as he did against the Black Stars of Ghana in London early this year.
With a depleted team, German tactician, Berti Vogts, has grown goose pimples for the Uganda challenge despite the morale-boosting 1–0 over Harambee Stars last weekend in Nairobi.

Vogts bank on the experiences of captain Nwankwo Kanu, Joseph Yobo and returnee striker, Yakubu Aiyegbeni. The German tactician also boasts of a rich attacking options, which include Lille of France’s Osaze Odemwingie and John Utaka of Renns.

The return of first-choice goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, should also gladden Vogts’ heart, while little problem is expected in the defence, where Yobo, Taiye Taiwo, Obinna Nwaneri and Rabiu Afolabi hold sway.

The problem department may be the midfield, especially if Mikel Obi fails to play. But should late minute substitute, Paul Obiefule strike his rhythm, there may be little problem in that department too.
The German may find Lobi Stars’ workaholic midfielder, Isiaka Olawale, to be the joker in the battle of Kampala. Olawale has the strength to rove all over the pitch. A great ball passer, the diminutive player is gifted in dead ball situations and he shoots freely with both legs, just as he has the ability to mark and win balls.

But the Ugandans are certainly not lacking in any department of the game, even though they do not parade any big name as Eagles. What goes for the Cranes is their team spirit and determination.
However, the players to watch in the Cranes’ line up are David Obua, Nubiru Hassan and Kayizzi Vincent, all of who tormented the Eagles’ defence in Abeokuta. There is also Kadogo Alimansi, who scored the Cranes’ goal in last weekend’s 1–1 draw against Tanzania in their build-up friendly encounter.

Super Eagles’ attackers will have to work extra hard to put the ball behind goalkeeper, Onyango Dennis, who did everything to frustrate Nigeria in the first leg clash at the M.K.O. Abiola Stadium.
Eagles’ biggest problem in today’s clash may be the bad pitch at the Mandela Stadium in Namboole, Kampala. The predominately Europe-based Nigerian side had complained about the poor pitch at the Abeokuta stadium as being responsible for the low scoreline they recorded in the first leg encounter. But if recent reports from Uganda are anything to go by, then Eagles should be ready to play on a worse pitch compared to what they had in Abeokuta.

Nigerians will however, not take any excuse from neither the Super Eagles nor their German tactician this time around. The only song on the lips of every Nigerian appears to be: “Crush the Cranes in Kampala to prove that Super Eagles are indeed Super.”

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