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AFCON 2019 Daily Diary:Fly on the wall – Day 12

Let me reiterate that I am not in Egypt.
My passport is still in ‘detention’.
I am in Lagos anchoring the television presentation of some of the matches of AFCON 2019 involving the Super Eagles on NTA, in an NTA/Hotsports collaboration. It is the least I can do in the circumstance to be a part of the ongoing feast of the best of African football.

My absence in Egypt is compensated for by a creative authentication and reportage of daily goings-on by an imaginary fly on the wall in the Eagles’ camp.

This morning the fly is unable to see anything or describe the mood in the Super Eagles camp.

Since the team received the information of their next opponent things have changed here, understandably.

The elements are back to their game.
They have thrown up, almost from nowhere, the least expected opponent, Cameroon, for a Nigeria that has just suffered unprecedented humiliation at the hands of one of the lowest ranked football countries in the championship, for a confrontation that will be followed even on planet Mars next Saturday. This is another ‘World War’.

The stakes are raised very high now for Cameroon.
As current African champions, increasingly doing better as the championship progresses, and clear favourites now on paper,
Cameroon carry a huge burden and must not lose this match.

On the other hand, Nigeria are wounded. They cannot return home with the result they have posted so far. That team will most likely be disbanded should they lose against Cameroon and exit the championship at this point.

So, deep down in the camp of the Super Eagles, this ultimate challenge may also be their greatest gift from heaven, the chance to redeem everything they have lost in that fateful match last weekend. So, to start their journey to Saturday’s match, they must take ‘Cameroon’ to be good news.

After all, the Super Eagles have the number of the Indomitable Lions, going through the records of meetings between them in the past decade and even more.

Additionally, this match is a completely new game, with absolutely no bearing to everything that has happened before now. This is a match in which strategies, tactics, and technicalities will amount to little or naught. A quick mental replay of the recent matches between the two teams confirms this.

Only two things will matter now – psychology and physicality.
The matches between the two teams have always been grueling physical and mental battles that defy regular analysis.

Cameroon know they are in for the fight of their lives, and that if there is a country on earth that has no fear of them after several recent battles, it is Nigeria.

Cameroon are likely to be more jittery.

Yes, they are current African champions. Yes, they have been improving with every match and playing better. Yes, even on paper, they look like clear favourites. But, ironically, those also become their burden, because their indomitability will amount to nothing should they fail to defeat the Eagles.

The fly on the wall is out early today observing both camps to find out how they will go about preparing for this epic match on Saturday.

Gernot Rohr hast started already.

He has chosen to bring down the tension and pressure on his players. Yesterday he would not even go to their usual training ground to train. This is not about how much they train now.

Gernot Rohr took the team to the grounds behind the team’s Helnana Palestine Hotel and did some foot tennisand team bondingexercises – less football, more psychology, gentle exercises to calm the nerves, heal the body and ease the tension.

The second interesting development is that Captain Mikel Obi may become the unofficial chief ‘psychologist’ of the team, his experiences and stories when he played against Cameroon in the past 14 years and dominated them, will provide invaluable information and useful insight into how to deal with the most physical team on earth.

Mikel, in fact, may have played his last match here in Egypt. Apart from the psychological dent of an extremely disappointing performance against Madagascar, he also picked up a bad knock that rules him out of the next match, for sure.
He has not been training. He sat through yesterday’s gentle training.

Visit http://www.mathematical7.com and read my full analysis of the match on Saturday morning. Don’t miss it.

Segun Odegbami

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