13 October 2014 20:56
Nigeria head into the Africa Cup of Nations clash with Sudan amid Stephen Keshi claiming their qualifying campaign is being ‘sabotaged’.
The defending champions could not have endured a much worse start to their campaign, managing just one draw and two defeats in three Group A encounters.
That has put the spotlight on Keshi, who had originally opted to leave his role after the recent World Cup only before going back on that decision and staying at the helm.
It remains to be seen how much longer he will remain in charge, especially following his surprising claims on Monday.
“There is sabotage by some people. I won’t mention their names but they know themselves,” said Keshi.
“They want to run this team down. Some people are ready to sell this country for a dime. They want to sabotage the Super Eagles.
“It’s a shame. They don’t want this team to get to the Nations Cup, they want this team to lose outright.”
Despite Nigeria’s recent poor run – they have won just one of their last 11 games – newly-elected Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick insists it is not the time for knee-jerk reactions.
“It is embarrassing that, as reigning champions, we are struggling in the qualifying series, with only one point out of a possible nine. It is an awful output,” he said.
“However, we want our people to be patient and not stampede the federation to take knee-jerk decisions that will backfire in the end.”
Even so, Wednesday’s clash at Abuja National Stadium appears to have taken on added importance as Nigeria aim to avenge a 1-0 defeat in Sudan at the weekend.
Keshi may at least be boosted by the return of midfielder Michael Babatunde, who missed Saturday’s encounter through a knee injury.
Sudan will enter the clash on a high having grabbed their only Group A goal, scored by Bakri Abdelgadir, to spring a surprise in the reverse fixture.
That result raised hopes that they can qualify for the tournament, which they have managed to do just four times since winning it in 1970.
Saturday was only the second time Sudan have beaten their more illustrious opponents, although they are still yet to emerge triumphant on Nigerian soil.