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Naija boss Stephen Keshi
It all started so well. It was to be the Super Eagles’ triumphant return to the continental top table, the heavyweights of the West, a nation who consider themselves to be the finest ever to claim the Afcon, returning to their rightful position among Africa’s top sides.
For 94 minutes, it looked to be going to plan. A goal up through Emmanuel Emenike, after some excellent work from Ideye Brown, Nigeria were looking competent (despite having Efe Ambrose harshly sent off), and considered alongside Burkina Faso’s blunt attacking play, the three points looked to be in the bag.
But then, Jonathan Pitroipa, breaking into the box, finding himself in a tight angle, poking the ball past Joseph Yobo and Godfrey Oboabona, shuffled aimlessly into the path of Alain Traore—the Stallions personified—who blasted the ball past Vinnie Enyeama and into the Nigerian net.
The Super Eagles were deflated, dejected and unable to comprehend the evaporation of a victory that had been theirs moments earlier—a swathe of disbelief and incomprehension flooded social media sites.
Obviously, all is not lost for Stephen Keshi’s boys, but in the cold light of day, the difference between three points and one have rarely felt so stark. John Obi Mikel, the undisputed star of the Super Eagles set up and demonstrated, in glimpses, on Monday just what he is capable of, caressing the ball around like a libertine might adore his sweetheart’s cheek. Mikel, more than anyone, needs to step up, begin dominating contests and to ensure that Naija’s return to the high table is not an enormous unhappiness.