OLUFEMI ATOYEBI writes on the burden that being a Chelsea player has placed on Victor Moses as Nigeria play Liberia in Monrovia today.
The dream move of Nigeria’s Victor Moses from Wigan Athletic to Chelsea has suddenly become the highlight of the 2013 Nations Cup qualifier between Nigeria and Liberia in Monrovia on Saturday (today).
The match is the first leg of the final round of matches leading to the next Nations Cup in South Africa. Winners over the two legs make it to the finals in January and Moses can write his name on the minds of Nigerians if he comes out of the match as a hero.
Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi did not hide his feeling when he said that the Eagles’ chances of beating the Lone Star of Liberia will in part rest on the performance of the new Chelsea player, charging him to show he is Africa’s best.
“I read what you said about us winning next year’s Nations Cup and for you to also lead our attack to do well at the World Cup in Brazil.
You must start proving that in Monrovia when we tackle Liberia by showing them that you are Africa’s best,” Keshi said.
It was a way of preparing the young lad for an important match, which could in turn also put pressure on him.
Moses is desperate to show what he can do by scoring for Nigeria and Nigerians will start wondering if he is the expected prolific striker for the Eagles if he fails to score again today.
In February, Moses first played for Nigeria in a Nations Cup qualifying match against Rwanda in Kigali. He was the star of the match as his daring moves terrified the host. The match ended 0-0, but Nigerians looked forward to seeing him on home soil in the second leg. He was a second half substitute and failed to score, as he also did earlier against Namibia.
He apologised at the time, promising to make Nigerian fans smile if given the opportunity again.
“I am sorry, but I want them to understand that this is my first game in front of the Nigerian crowd. I battled with the weather, but that’s not an excuse for not scoring. The chances came but I was not that lucky.
“There are many more games ahead and it can only get better. All I ask from fans is that they should be patient because my best is yet to come for the national team.”
The Eagles, comprising 22 players and officials, left Nigeria for the match venue on Friday after a week’s training in Abuja. As part of the motivation for the match, President Goodluck Jonathan visited the team during a training session on Wednesday, promising to be in South Africa if they qualify.
“I want to come to the Nations Cup, but I know that I cannot do that if the Super Eagles did not qualify for the championship. That is why I’m here to ginger the team to qualify for the tournament.”
The Lone Star lost to Nigeria in a friendly match in February, but the Liberians are determined to stop Eagles this time. The crucial match is tagged Operation Crush Nigeria, and although they may not have the might of Nigeria when it comes to stars on parade, hopes are hinged on home support.
Liberia Football Association mobilisation chairman Edwin Snowe said all the Lone Stars would beat Nigeria in Monrovia.
“We are calling on all Liberians to make a commitment to support the national team,” he said.
He added that Lone Star Chief Patron, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, had launched official activities towards ensuring Liberia reach the finals in South Africa. Snowe called on history to repeat itself, referring to his nation’s 2-1 victory over Nigeria in 2001.
On Tuesday, Liberia beat Malawi 1-0 in a warm up match, sending signals to Nigeria that they will be ready to fight on Saturday.