Nigeria are through to the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals in Brazil after seeing off the ‘Walyas’ in the return leg of their Caf playoff duel at the UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar.
The ‘Super Eagles’ secured a comfortable 2-0 win over Ethiopia to reach a fifth World Cup appearance and a second successive berth since losing out of Germany 2006.
Victor Moses opened scoring from the penalty spot on 20 minutes after Hailu Assefa was adjudged to have handled inside the area. Obinna Nsofor, who came in for the Liverpool loanee sealed victory for Coach Stephen Keshi’s side in the final ten minutes.
As expected, Keshi rang two changes from the side which secured a 2-1 victory in Addis Ababa last month, bringing in Chelsea centre-back, Kenneth Omeruo, for Azubuikwe Egwekwe and starting Brown Ideye up front alongside Emmanuel Emenike.
The coach’s resolve for an attacking formation resulted to a first all-European lineup for the Eagles in as many months, and the prospect of grabbing the first of five African tickets in the final game of the Caf playoff looked achievable when Emenike’s shot was pushed wide by goalkeeper Sisay Bancha in the 6th minute.
Ethiopia looked dangerous from the onset but lacked the creativity in front of the hosts’ defence. Saladin Said dribbled through on the right in the 16th minute but his low shot across the face of goal was not a problem for Nigerian shot-stopper Vincent Enyeama.
Two minutes later, the referee spotted Hailu’s handball inside the box for Moses to slot the resultant spot-kick into the bottom right corner, after sending Bancha the wrong way.
The Chelsea player was however booked for removing his shirt in celebration.
Nigeria, immediately, pressed for a second-goal as they tried finishing off the race to the South American nation in a grande style. Moses and Ideye came close to increasing scores before Ethiopia delivered a free-kick into the box only for Godfrey Obaobona to clear for a corner, which came to nothing.
Two minutes to the interval, Ogenyi Onazi’s shot from outside of the box was parried into play by Bancha and Ideye sent the rebound over the crossbar.
Nigeria began the second-half looking to pounce on the stubborn Ethiopian defence.
Neverless, Ethiopia kept hope of a comeback alive when Shimelis Bekele was almost played through on the right for the inform Enyeama to get off his line and smother his shot in the 54th minute.
Keshi rang in some couples of substitution as Sunday Mba, who has been nominated for the Caf African Player of the Year and African Player of the Year (Based in Africa) awards, came in for Ideye. Egwuekwe came in for Omeruo, who was at risk of getting a second yellow card, while that which paid off right away was Nsofor for Moses.
Nsofor grabbed Nigeria’s second, five minutes after stepping into the pitch. The FC Lokomotiv Moscow striker took a sublime free-kick which beat Bancha into the net eight minutes to the dead.
The Super Eagles held on to a 4-1 aggregate victory in the final stages of the encounter and Nigeria’s flag will be hoisted in Brazil in the next summer soccer showpiece.