|Kenya's Victor Wanyama (center) tussles for the ball against Nigerian players|
Fireworks akin to those witnessed on 23rd March when the two teams met at the U.J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar for the first leg matchup is expected. In that match, substitute Nnamdi Oduamadi scored a late equalizer for the African champions to deny Kenya a historic win after Francis Kahata’s sublime freekick had stunned the home team.
Oduamadi and Kahata are expected to start the match for their respective teams in the 4.00pm kickoff. Both teams will be missing key men but Kenya is more hard hit with the absence of the country’s all-time topscorer Dennis Oliech who is suspended alongside steadfast custodian Arnold Origi. MacDonald Mariga will also sit out with a recurring injury.
Nigeria on the other hand will miss the services of tricky Chelsea wideman Victor Moses and Turkey-based Kalu Uche who are both nursing injuries. Both teams boast fantastic squads, but the reigning AFCON champions have more quality within their ranks as Thesteifmastertake’s combined XI reveals.
Vincent Enyeama: Nigeria – arguably one of the best goalkeepers the African continent has seen in the last decade. The Lille custodian who is on loan at Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv is a brilliant shot-stopper and commands his defence in a manner second to none in African football. He will be winning his 78th cap when the Super Eagles take on Kenya who’s custodian Duncan Ochieng’ is nothing close to the Kaduna-born keeper in terms of quality, but Kenya’s No. 1, Arnold Origi who will be unavailable gets just close.
Efe Ambrose: Nigeria – the 24-year-old has become a permanent figure in Neil Lennon’s Celtic squad and was named in the African Cup of Nations Team of the Tournament after playing five games out of six for title-winning Nigeria in South Africa. Ambrose’s versatility means he can also slot in in the center-back or defensive midfield position.
David Ochieng: Kenya – referred by his peers simply as “Cheche”, the affable Tusker player is one of the brightest stars of Kenyan football. He earned his first cap with the national team during the 2012 CECAFA Tusker Senior Challenge Cup in Uganda where he netted in only his second match as Kenya won 2-0 against South Sudan. The 21-year-old lets his football do the talking and will be key for Harambee Stars as they try to fend off the Super Eagles’ potent attackers.
Kenneth Omeruo: Nigeria – At only 19 years, Omeruo has already earned 9 caps for the Nigeria national team. The 5ft ½ in defender is a Chelsea player but is currently on loan at Dutch side ADO Den Haag. Omeruo, the only player in the Dutch league ever to score a goal, an own goal and receive a red card in one match, is one for the future and the Super Eagles should feel comfortable with him manning the defence alongside Sunshine Stars’ Godfrey Oboabona.
Uwa Elderson Echiéjilé: Nigeria – Yet another Super Eagles’ player to make it in the combined IX. Echiéjilé’s opposite number Mulinge Ndeto has superior age on his side but lacks consistency at the international stage. Uwa who plies his trade at SC Braga has experience getting in the mix with the big boys and scored from a corner kick in a 3-0 win against Celtic in the 2010 UEFA Champions League qualifying round.
Victor Wanyama: Kenya – The much-sought-after Wanyama will captain Harambee Stars team in the absence of regular captain Dennis Oliech, a huge responsibility on his young shoulders but one he won’t dread to take head on. The Celtic young player of the season is a joy to watch and his calming presence just ahead of the back four will be key for Kenya. For Wanyama, the stakes will be higher than just getting three points. Top European clubs will be keenly following his performance which could determine whether he makes his long-awaited big money move during the European summer transfer window.
John Obi Mikel: Nigeria – The Super Eagles’ engine room, the team’s heartbeat. The Chelsea anchorman’s battle with Wanyama around the center cycle is one reason not to miss this match.
Jamal Mohammed: Kenya – he may be known to a few but the man christened “Malo” can be unplayable on his day. Good on set pieces and spraying passes around, the Omani-based midfielder will need to play the game of his life and support Kenya’s makeshift frontline if they are to get anything out of this game.
Nnamdi Chidiebere Oduamadi: Nigeria – The 22-year-old earned his first cap against Kenya and scored the goal that broke Harambee Stars’ hearts in Calabar. On loan at Serie B side Varese from AC Milan where he came up from their youth set up, Oduamadi plays as a center forward but would perfectly fit in the left wing position in the absence of Victor Moses.
Francis Kahata: Kenya – he scores when he wants doesn’t he? The dead-ball specialist will be keenly marked by Nigeria’s defenders who will need to be alert all the time to keep the Thika forward at bay.
Brown Ideye: Nigeria – the beastly forward, currently playing for Ukraine Premier League side FC Dynamo Kyiv, will be a mouthful to handle for Harambee Stars. His statistics of 3 goals in 15 appearances for the Super Eagles may not be at all impressive but it is his never-say-die attitude and workhorse-like ethic that the Stars’ must keep in check.
Coach: Stephen Keshi - One of only two people, along with Egypt's Mahmoud El-Gohary, to have won the Africa Cup of Nations as both a player and a coach. Enough said.
And That's thesteifmastertake!!