FROM KUNLE SOLAJA,CALABAR
The match may not have lived up to expectation, but the end has justified the means as the Super Eagles became the 23rd team to pick a place in the 32-team FIFA World Cup final, the most prestigious team sport competition on Planet Earth.
The 2-0 win of Nigeria ensured a 4-1 goal aggregate passage to Brazil 2014. Champaign was was pooped on the field as the Nigerian bench ran unto the field after the final blast of the whistle.
Two minutes earlier, the heavens opened up as rain began. It could have been a showers of blessings. This was followed by fireworks. Oh for the for the fifth time, Nigeria is heading for the World Cup! Celebrations went on all night in Calabar.
Quality football may have been at a discount as the Super Eagles, playing casually as if they already have a knowledge that they were in. Kicking off spiritedly, the Ethiopians bubbled with enthusiasm, hoping for a likely upset. It did not happen.
Rather it was the Super Eagles that drew the first blood when in the 20th minute when under pressure, Ethiopian defender Hailu handled the ball in the penalty box. Victor Moses stepped forward and converted the penalty kick to put Nigeria 1-0 ahead.
It was his third penalty goal against Ethiopia having score two in the group stage of the Africa. Cup of Nations earlier this year. It was also the fourth penalty kick that Ethiopia has conceded to Nigeria this year. The second goal of Nigeria in the 2-1 away win last month was also a penalty kick converted by Emmanuel Emenike.
Victor Moses instantly got a yellow card for pulling off his shirt in celebration, bringing into memory a similar incident of July 7, 1997 when Wilson Oruma did the same in celebration of goal against Kenya when Nigeria picked the France ‘98 ticket.
Immediately after Moses’ penalty goal, the game slumped as the Eagles appeared satisfied with the low scoreline.
Stephen Keshi who has made history as the first African to captain a team to qualify for the World Cup and also coach African teams to pick World Cup tickets had to throw in some of his good substitutes in the second half.
Azubike Egwuewike went in to replace injured Kenneth Omeruo while speedy Obinna Nsofor went in to replace sluggish offensive Victor Moses. The changes worked wonders.
Barely two minutes of stepping in, Victor Obinna Nsofor put Nigeria 2-0 ahead in the 80th minute – the traditional time Nigeria scored most of its five of its eight previous goals.