Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Reporter’s Exposé On Ethiopia

A LOT has been said and written about how the high altitude may affect the Super Eagles during their World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia in Addis Ababa

so much so that any repeat will sound like a broken record. But I couldn’t resist the excellent pictorial analysis that was published on the subject by Qasim Elegbede, editor of our sister publication, International Soccer (i-Soccer). So, I decided to share it with Soccertalk readers.

Using Victor Moses as a model, Qasim illustrates the physiological impact of high altitude weather on football players. The prognosis is rather scary, but it’s better to understand fully the dimensions of the challenge ahead of the Eagles so that our players will be adequately prepared for it.

Many Nigerian football teams have played in Addis Ababa in the past and no player has been killed by the altitude. Some of the teams secured a draw while others actually emerged victorious, so playing at altitude is not necessarily a death sentence. The current Eagles will also live to tell their own story but, make no mistake, the going will be very tough.

Thankfully, Qasim has also suggested how the Eagles can beat the harsh conditions in Addis Ababa. I don’t mind saying so myself, but this is a piece of excellent journalistic work. Enjoy it…

How To Beat Ethiopia In Addis Ababa By Qasim Elegbede

LAST week I promised to share with you some creative ways which Nigeria can employ to battle Ethiopia's natural advantage  altitude  next month when we visit Addis Ababa. The main issue when you play at altitude in away matches is the little matter of less oxygen in the rarified air of places like the Ethiopia capital which are 2500 meters above sea level.

Footballers burn energy while playing like a race car burn fuel while on track. This makes the effects of altitude extremely unbearable especially in the second half when visitors from low altitude like the Super Eagles are usually dead on their feet.

Let me say I'm pleased the NFF have started planning ahead by declaring our team would be ferried to Addis Ababa on chattered flight a day to the match.

But while this is commendable, I would have preferred a situation where our team fly direct to Addis Ababa on Matchday itself.

Scientific evidence shows that altitude effect on human body is most severe on third day while everybody could acclimatize in three weeks. Of course, you won't even get a week to prepare for qualifiers in today's club-dictated football schedule. Hence the thought of camping the Super Eagles for three weeks ahead of the Addis Ababa clash is impossible.

 As a general rule, it is reckoned that without time to acclimatize players lose over 30% of their athletic capacity. The lungs struggle and they can't find enough oxygen to move freely over the pitch. So what nearly everyone does to ameliorate this condition is to move up to altitude just a few hours before the game. In this way the effects of extreme altitude are minimized. This makes medical sense.

But I can't begrudge the NFF. After all, in June 2011, the Super Eagles visited Addis Ababa and left with a 2-2 draw in our ultimately ill-fated African Cup of Nations qualifications for the 2012 finals. Now for me, that would be a good result to take to Calabar for the return leg. I won't be too disappointed if we didn't win in Addis Ababa so far as we didn't lose. And I'd welcome scoring away draw with that away goal advantage ahead of a
goalless draw.

So how should Nigeria approach the Walanya Antelopes in Ethiopia? For convenience, I've divided this into three, namely survival, defence and attack.


THE first key to success in Addis Ababa will be how long can the Super Eagles last in Ethiopia's rarified air. To achieve longevity in this crucial match, Nigeria must resist the temptation to run or go gong-ho with Ethiopia.
The Walanya Antelopes love to hug possession and, egged on by their vociferous fans, they would be very aggressive, fast, and be ready to run for 90 minutes and more.

Nigeria, as a matter of necessity, must adopt containment as our tactics. We must run as little as possible. To achieve this we must stay compact, giving the man on the ball plenty of options for a pass while denying our hosts the chance to weave their way through our centre. In this regards, Mikel Obi, Ogenyi Onazi and Agu, all midfielders who can mark, hold possession and win fouls, would be very crucial here.

In addition to curtailing our opponents from overrunning us, we must creatively kill time. The Eagles should draw fouls especially close to our opponents' vital area. Once this fouls are won, we must make the most by wasting time as much as possible. Any felled Super Eagle should remain on the turf for as long as the ref would permit. This would allow our boys catch their breath, take glucose drinks and disrupt the flow of our hyper-charged hosts. This is one tactics that has been employed to huge success by North Africans usually in inclement weather against us in those days.

It is also a tactic employed to great success by boxing legend Muhammad Ali against his opponents. Ali was found of holding opponents severally in early rounds to frustrate and wear them out only to explode and deliver killer punches on his weary rival later on.

You may accuse me of gamesmanship. But guys, this is war. And I don't know any general who won wars by being saintly. If rolling on the turf helps frustrate our opponents and allows us to last 90 minutes with little inconvenience, then I'm all for it.


AS A rule, Nigeria MUST NOT defend too deep in Addis Ababa's rarified air. That would be a sure way to invite trouble as it stretches out the team and makes it easy for the home side to shoot from range which like I observed last week is very dangerous at altitude. Yes, we MUST STAY compact. But we must not defend too deep in order not to encourage our hosts to test our goalkeeper. Balls move straighter and faster at altitudes than they normally would at sea levels.

Staying compact will also ensure we maintain good depth when defending as we will be able to maintain good numerical superiority.

As a necessity, we MUST AVOID conceding free-kicks near our penalty box like a plague. Remember, balls travel very fast at altitudes. So conceding set-pieces near our goal area is inviting big trouble. We MUST AVOID compromising our defensive organization by engaging in quick counter attacks that could be reversed once we lose the ball. Even at 1-0 down with about 15 minutes to go, we must be very careful of how we attack. Safety must always be our watchword.

Yes, I'm prepared to lose 1-0 or maximum 2-0 in Addis Ababa, if the situation became too tough, knowing I can easily reverse this in Calabar. But any worse defeat could be precarious for us even in the second leg. However, don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating Nigeria should go and lose in Addis Ababa, no! As a matter of fact, I think we could come home with a result. But what I'm saying is we must not compromise our defence by any means. We need to be conservative, be organised and be very disciplined  a draw away from home with the return leg at our backyard would be a good result for the Super Eagles notoriously renowned for our poor record on the road.


PERHAPS our best chance of hurting the Walanya Antelopes in Addis Ababa would be through dead balls. Here four players would be key  Ahmed Musa, Mikel, Emmanuel Emenike and Godfrey Oboabona. Musa's pace would trouble any team. And crucially, that boy seems to have the lungs of a horse. He is the only player in today's Eagles who seems immune to any adverse weather condition. The boys should feed Ahmed with precise long ranger, let him run at the Ethiopians and go for goal or draw fouls near their vital area. This will work especially if he is deployed to operate as a point man!

Once the free-kick is won near the Walanya's 18-yard box, then I'd like to see Oboabona or Emmenike unleash their characteristic venomous long range shots from the set-piece. But in case, the Ethiopian wall is going to prove a hindrance, I'd expect Mikel to stand behind the ball and lay it off to lurking Emenike or Oboabona who would shoot to kill from the edge of the area.

Another way through which we could score could be to release Musa who could run at the hosts' defence and go for goal like he did in neighbouring Kenya in Nairobi or break free, draw his markers to the wing before squaring for Emenike, Victor Moses or any of the onrushing midfielders to finish.

Nicking a goal, especially early in the match, would unsettle our hosts. The Super Eagles can and should do this as I think we are good enough to get a result from Addis Ababa despite our notorious away record. So who are the boys I would deploy to do the job if I were Stephen Keshi?

I'd start Enyeama in goal. My back four would comprise Echiejile, Oboabona, Egwueke and Ambrose. My middle five would have the trio of Mikel, Agu and Onazi at the middle with Moses on the left and Emenike on the right.
Musa, like I said above, would lead the attack. Nations Cup hero Sunday Mba and Nnamdi Oduamadi would be on my bench in case I need to change things. My 4-5-1 formation would quickly transform to 4-2-4 or 4-3-3 on few occasions when attacking while it would be a very compact 4-5-1 or 6-4-0 when defending without seating too deep in order to prevent long range shots.

What would be your own line-up if you were Keshi?    


IN FOUR previous clashes in Addis Ababa, Nigeria seem to have good record against their hosts with two victories and a draw. But it's instructive to note that our last victory against the Walanya Antelopes was recorded three decades ago when an Adegboye Onigbinde-led youthful side beat their hosts by the odd goal in an international friendly in 1983. Following are our head-to-head stats against Ethiopia in Addis Ababa.   Nations Cup 2012, Qualifier, Group B 05.06.2011 Ethiopia 2-2 Nigeria  Nations Cup 1994, Qualifier, Group 2 10.04.1993 Ethiopia 1-0 Nigeria  Friendly 1983 29.04.1983 Ethiopia 0-1 Nigeria   Olympic Games 1968, Qualifier, Africa, Group 2, final 04.05.1968 Ethiopia 0-1 Nigeria


AS COULD be deduced from the stats which you would see below, Ethiopia are a very deadly side in the second half in Addis Ababa where they have never failed to score at least a goal for two years! Since November 12, 2011 when they commenced their qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014 Mundial, the Walanya Antelopes have played four World Cup qualifiers in Addis Ababa, winning all, scoring 10 goals against only one conceded against South Africa on June 16, 2013.

They also played and won a CHAN qualifier 1-0 against Rwanda two months ago. So in five competitive matches, they only conceded a goal in rarified Addis Ababa, against 11 scored. Crucially seven of these 11 goals were scored in the second half when presumably their opponents were already dead on their feet, gasping for the little oxygen in the thin air. That's nearly 64 percent of Ethiopia's total haul! The Walanya Antelopes also played three warm-up matches in Addis Ababa in this period and, needless to say, won all against Niger (1-0), Tanzania (2-1) and Sudan (2-0). Need I tell you that three of their five goals in these warm-up matches were registered in the second half  that's 60 percent if you like stats?

So, putting it simply, the Super Eagles would be up for it most especially in the second half when, like everybody else, they are expected to be dead tired. How Keshi's boys manage their energy resources in the whole 90 minutes of rarified football would be very crucial to their success or otherwise in Addis Ababa.

ETHIOPIA'S ROAD TO EAGLES CLASH BELOW are the results of 17 matches played by Ethiopia since they commenced their campaign for a place in Brazil. These contain eight World Cup qualifiers, two CHAN qualifiers, four international friendlies and three Nations Cup group matches in SA early this year:

Nov 12, 2011    WCQ 2014 (Africa)       Somalia    0 - 0    Ethiopia
Nov 16, 2011    WCQ 2014 (Africa)       Ethiopia    5 - 0    Somalia (Ukuri 5', Bekele 62' 65 Kebede 87' 90)
Jun 3, 2012    WCQ  2014 (Africa)       South Africa    1 - 1    Ethiopia (Said 30)
Jun 10, 2012    WCQ  2014 (Africa)       Ethiopia    2 - 0    Central African Republic  (Said 36, 88 Bancha)
Dec 29, 2012   Friendly   Ethiopia    1 - 0   Niger (Girma 61')
Jan 7, 2013    Friendly      Tunisia    1 - 1    Ethiopia (Saladin 67)
Jan 11, 2013   Friendly       Ethiopia    2 - 1    Tanzania (Ibrahim 13, Bekele 69)
***Jan 21, 2013    Africa Cup of Nations       Zambia    1 - 1    Ethiopia (Girma 65)
***Jan 25, 2013    Africa Cup of Nations       Burkina Faso    4 - 0    Ethiopia
***Jan 29, 2013    Africa Cup of Nations: Ethiopia    0 - 2  Nigeria
Mar 24, 2013    WCQ 2014 (Africa): Ethiopia    1 - 0    Botswana (Kebede 89’
May 25, 2013 Friendly Ethiopia 2 - 0 Sudan (Hintsa 32 Said 72)
Jun 8, 2013    WCQ 2014 (Africa)       Botswana    0-3    Ethiopia (Sembowa 76', Kebede 33'; Said 67) (Match awarded 3-0 to Botswana due to Ethiopia

playing an ineligble player)

Jun 16, 2013    WCQ 2014 (Africa)       Ethiopia    2 - 1    South Africa (Kebede 43'; Parker (OG) 70')
Jul 14, 2013    African Nations Championship (CHAN) - 2014  Ethiopia    1-0    Rwanda (Megersa 72)
Jul 27, 2013    African Nations Championship (CHAN) - 2014  Rwanda    1-0   Ethiopia (Ndahinduka 68)
SEP 7, 2013    WCQ 2014 (Africa) Central African Republic        1 - 2    Ethiopia (Said 48, Teshome 61)


AS NIGERIA prepare to tackle Ethiopia in Addis Ababa on October 10, they must never lose sight of three names to be unleashed by their hosts. These are Saladin Said of Belgian club Lierse, Getaneh Kebede of South African club Bidvest Wits and Libya based Shimelis Bekele of Awassa City FC  whoever says Ethiopia don't have their own foreign legion.

Together this trio accounted for 13 of the 16 goals which Ethiopia scored in Addis Ababa since November 2011. Lierse's Said and Bidvest's Kebede top the rank with five goals each while Bekele weighed in three. Simply put, these guys are especially deadly in front of their fans. And they are men Nigeria must watch very closely if we must return from Addis Ababa altitude with good result!

Now that you know all this, what do you think are our chances of getting our desired result in Addis Ababa? Hit me with your thoughts, will ya? This is wishing Nigeria best of luck in two weeks and saying see you next week insha-Allah. Peace.


NOSE: Sinuses could play up, leading to runny noses and headaches, which could hinder performances across the pitch. The air will be drier, dehydrating players' airways.

MOUTH: Thin air at altitude makes players' mouths dry, thereby making them to drink more water to prevent dehydration.

LUNGS: Players will become breathless quicker in Addis Ababa. With fewer oxygen particles in the air, they will have to inhale more often to get enough oxygen to their lungs. This will wear them out very quickly.

HEART: Players' performances could fade in the second half. A player like Nnamdi Oduamadi and Ogenyi Onazi who like to operate from box-to-box or forwards Victor Moses, Ahmed Musa and Emmanuel Emenike who like to run at defenders will become tired quicker than usual, as their hearts have to work harder to pump blood – and the oxygen it holds – around their body. Players' hearts will beat between five and 10 times faster than they normally do.

FFET: Players boots will feel tight, affecting ball control, hence don't be surprised if Eagles find it difficult to trap the ball in Addis Ababa.

Research shows that feet often swell at altitude because the air pressure outside is lower than the pressure of oxygen inside the body.

BRAIN: Players' decision making may be impaired and their reaction times slowed, making somebody like stalwart centre-half Godfrey Oboabona more likely to mistime his tackles and misplace his passes. At Addis Ababa's altitude of 2,355metres, oxygen intake could decrease by as much as 10 per cent. The Super Eagles may also find it harder to sleep, sapping energy levels. This may particularly hurt after pre-matchday training session.

BLADDER: Players may find they need to use the toilet during the match. Urinating is more frequent at altitudes as it enables the body to reabsorb bicarbonate, which changes the acid level in the blood and helps release oxygen around the body. But this might not be much of an issue as players may decide to do their thing on the pitch while pretending to be injured.

MUSCLES: Full backs Efe Ambrose and Elderson Echiejile may find it difficult to cover the length of the pitch. Recovery from overlapping runs would be slowed and difficult. As the body works hard to maintain oxygen and glucose levels, limbs will hurt and feel heavier, reaction times will slow and it will take longer to recover after games. Of course, post-match recovery won't be an issue for the Eagles as this is a one match, with the return leg not due after a month.

SKIN: Sweat may drip into players' eyes and balls may slip from their hands when taking throw-ins. This is because the body is under more stress than usual, making skin especially unpleasantly damp.

THE BALL: Balls will move faster in altitude, which could catch out goalkeepers. This is due to the reduced density of the atmosphere. Forward Emenike and company will find the ball has less time to dip and curves less, with the effects of drag and spin reduced.

THE ABOVE are some of the challenges which the Super Eagles could face next month when they go to Addis Ababa for the first leg of the final round of the race to Brazil. Now I’m sure some of our ultra-optimistic fans who think the Super Eagles would just stroll past the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia would start having a rethink. With all the above challenges, Ethiopia could actually be a banana skin draw for us unless we put our acts together by neither underrating our opponents nor the little remaining matter on the road to the Mundial. Gladly some of the above-listed challenges have solutions.

Why not make it a date with me here next week Friday insha-Allah for some of these creative solutions. Peace.


  1. This is a good analysis that requires adequate attention from the technical crew and the players. We really need to act on this information available. Keshi and co, take note!

  2. I just hope the big boss is reading this beautiful piece, ethiopia will fall insha allah

  3. What a breath-taking analysis. The Big Boss take note. The Antelopes would fall in Addis Ababa and drown in Calabar.

  4. Your strategy will not help the Eagles from losing the game, the Antelopes are serious in-front of the home crowd. Nigeria will be the six in a row to be ashamed in Addis Ababa.

  5. Check out to learn what the Ethiopian fans are expecting from their team.

  6. Is this a journo or porno ?
    what a shame how can someone in his right mind suggest players to piss on a pitch? and yet he is a muslim, this is an Islamic, an hygenic, and worst of all it's an dportman ship .... but if your players will have a wee problem I advise you to put them on diapers for the whole 90 min and after the match pack their dirty dipers and charter back to Abuja with it as we wont allow them to piss on our pitch! !!!
    Jun 10,2012 Eth 2-0 CAR ( both goals scored by Said not Bancha, Bancha is our goal keeper
    Jun 8, 2013 Botswana 1-2 Ethiopia ( not 0-3. and both of Ethiopias came in the first half and mind you Sembowa is a Botswana player not Ethiopian
    Last but not least it is WALIA not WALANYA ANTELOPES
    So Mr. Qasim get your facts right before you think of pissing online