Nigeria star John Obi Mikel has the potential to either make it or break it for his country when he takes the field for the 2013 African Cup of Nations Final.
Having played spectacularly through the previous rounds of competition, Mikel will once again have all attention on him in the middle as he seeks to give the Super Eagles their third African Cup title over the underdogs of the tournament, Burkina Faso.
The Stallions have stunned many teams and onlookers to have even made it this far in South Africa, and will no doubt be looking to repeat the process one more time here.
However, their success will all be down to Mikel.
The Chelsea midfielder's ability to hold the middle and shut down the Premier League's top players has made him a star throughout the domestic competition.
Yet here in South Africa, Mikel has been given much more freedom to push forward and use his skill set there to help even further in his side's attack.
He has been the driving force behind the success of a previously unheralded Emmanuel Emenike, who too will also play a deciding role in the final, if not simply for the fact that he has the opportunity to show just how strong Mikel is in central midfield.
Mikel was recently described by former Abia state governor Dr.Orji Uzor Kalu in his description of why the midfielder will win the Golden Ball.
Mikel Obi is a silent killer—in the field he puts on no airs, his touches are pinpoint. The young man is the hub of the Eagles.
Yet he carries everybody along. If the Nations Cup were another World War, I would call him Field Marshall Montgomery. I see a crown on his head as the Most Valuable Player [MVP] of this tournament.
And whether you like the metaphor or not from Kalu, it's hard to argue against the dominance of Mikel throughout AFCON so far and likely through the final as well.
247 - John Obi Mikel has made more successful passes than any other player in the African Cup of Nations. Continuity.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 6, 2013
Fellow Chelsea and Nigerian midfielder Victor Moses is likely to be a last-minute decision regarding his injury status (per Sports Illustrated), meaning that Mikel could well become the lone creative assassin for the Super Eagles against Burkina Faso.
The Stallions don't match up well in midfield, so expect the 25-year-old's defensive and attacking skills to be on display once more here.
If Nigeria are going to win, it will be because of the difference Mikel made.
Can Mikel lead Nigeria to African Cup glory in 2013?
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