Nigeria vs. Ethiopia: 5 Things We Learned
Nigeria secured qualification to the 2014 World Cup with a 2-0 win over Ethiopia in Calabar on Saturday, to complete a 4-1 aggregate win in the CAF qualifying playoff.
The victory was ultimately comfortable for Stephen Keshi and his side against what was a very mediocre Ethiopia team.
Nigeria will now head to Brazil, where they will hope to improve on their poor showing at the 2013 Confederations Cup.
The Super Eagles are the current African champions and have deservedly earned their place at the competition. But, what can we learn from the encounter?
1. Nigeria Will Struggle in Brazil
Stephen Keshi worked miracles to take Nigeria to the 2013 African Cup of Nations title earlier this year, despite moving on from some established senior players heading into the tournament.
However, they were very unimpressive over the two legs against Ethiopia and disappointed at the Confederations Cup. On the evidence of these two games, Nigeria are a shadow of some of their former sides.
There are good players in the side, but some of the leaders within the team do not necessarily justify their status with their performances.
Nigeria will head to the World Cup, but having watched Keshi's side a number of times over the course of the year, it would be a major surprise if they moved past the first round in Brazil.
2. Ethiopia Will Not Make the World Cup Anytime Soon
Ethiopia qualifying for the World Cup would undoubtedly have been a great story, but they fell some way short of making the contest a challenge for Nigeria.
The Walias were given a platform to shine over the true games, but despite showing spirit at home, showed little in the way of footballing quality.
Indeed, although they were always up against it in Calabar, it was disappointing to see some lamentable attempts to con the referee when in good attacking positions.
There is no doubting that Ethiopia are an improved force on previous years, but they are nowhere near qualifying for the World Cup at present.
3. African Football Is Stuck in a Rut
The Africa Cup of Nations has always been a tournament that I have enjoyed watching and, indeed, have covered in the past. This year's competition, though, was eminently forgettable.
There has been great progress among lesser South American nations and several Asian countries to pull themselves up to somewhere approaching the top level of international football. At present, African football is regressing.
The problems stem from the management of the sport in Africa. Football Associations are too often unable to run to satisfactory standards, domestic football remains mismanaged and European-based players are too often hyped before they have truly succeeded.
It is a harsh assessment, but Africa will continue to lag behind until the major systemic problems are addressed.
That multiple teams were disqualified for fielding ineligible players in qualification, per BBC Sport, says much of the failings that need to be resolved.
4. BT Sport Are a Positive Addition to British Television
BT Sport have divided opinion with their coverage of the Premier League, but the Nigeria against Ethiopia encounter was a great example of how they have added to the British sport scene.
African World Cup qualifiers were being brought to a UK audience by a major channel and scheduled alongside BT's coverage of other major events, with the large Nigerian and Ethiopian communities in Britain benefiting.
It is not a game that Sky, who have been the major players in the British sports television scene for many years, would have shown. Eurosport may have taken an interest, but that is the best that viewers could have hoped for.
In Efan Ekoku, also, they had a co-commentator who was both articulate and well-versed in African football and the players involved—a vast improvement on some of their rivals when it comes to international games.
BT may not always receive positive press, but on this occasion they deserve credit.
5. Stephen Keshi Deserves a Coach of the Year Nomination
In 2013, Stephen Keshi has taken Nigeria to the Africa Cup of Nations title and now to comfortable World Cup qualification, yet is astonishingly outside of FIFA's shortlist for Football Coach of the Year.
That same shortlist, though, includes the likes of Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger who will end the year trophyless, despite having managed illustrious club sides. Vicente Del Bosque is also selected, despite Spain losing the Confederations Cup final convincingly.
As mentioned regarding Nigeria not challenging next summer, this current generation of Nigeria player cannot compete with the great names that the country has produced in the past. Yet, in spite of that, Keshi has achieved success.
They were uninspiring against Ethiopia, but they also never looked like losing. Considering the tools with which he is working, Keshi has done a fine job.
FIFA will host their gala in January, but may as well designate it as a Europe-based prize. That Keshi, Marcello Lippi and Cuca are overlooked after their respective successes this year is an insult to all non-UEFA federations and their contribution to the sport this year.