Keshi predicts ‘unpredictable’ WCup playoffs
Africa’s big teams can expect ”tough, unpredictable” games in
next month’s World Cup playoffs, according to Nigeria coach Stephen
Keshi, whose continental champions are set to face Ethiopia, maybe
the most erratic of the 10 teams playing for a place in Brazil.
Keshi said he has respect for the Ethiopians, who Nigeria last
met at the African Cup in January and only just beat with two
penalties in the last 10 minutes.
”I am certain that it will be tough, unpredictable and exciting
for both the so called big teams and the minnows,” Keshi said in a
statement through the Nigeria Football Federation late Wednesday.
”The last time we played the Ethiopians it was quite tough and I
know when we meet next it’s going to be the same thing.”
Ethiopia had a wild ride at the African Cup in South Africa
after qualifying for the first time in over 30 years, surprisingly
drawing 1-1 with defending champion Zambia in its first game back,
losing 4-0 to Burkina Faso, pushing Nigeria close and having two
goalkeepers sent off in three games.
Ethiopia’s federation also was fined for its fans throwing
objects onto the pitch in one of the games, and supporters held up
a banner in a later match apologizing for their behavior, which
they said was because they ”love the game.”
”At that time we were just happy to get back into top level
competition and were inexperienced but now we have had many more
matches at this level so we will give it a good go against
Nigeria,” Ethiopia coach Sewnet Bishaw said at this week’s World
Cup playoff draw.
The football-mad East African country has a chance at its first
ever World Cup appearance after an equally eventful qualifying
campaign, when it was stripped of a win by FIFA after fielding an
ineligible player ”by mistake” and still qualified above South
Keshi, meanwhile, is distracted by a complaint of racism made
against him by Malawi coach Tom Saintfiet after Keshi referred to
Saintfiet as a ”white dude” who should go back to his native
Belgium in the buildup to their game in the final round of group
FIFA is still considering the complaint.
Nigeria travels to Ethiopia’s intimidating Addis Ababa Stadium
for the first leg of their playoff next month, with the second leg
in Nigeria in November.
”All we need to do is to be focused, concentrate and pray for
good health for our best players and the rest will be history,”