If We Can “Concentrate For 95 Minutes”; Eagles will be Fine- Keshi Allays Fears Ahead Of Crucial Encounter With Uruguay

Injured Super Eagles midfielder, Ogenyi Onazi, is unlikely to feature in the ongoing Confederations Cup as many had expected to see him in tonight’s decisive showdown with South American champions Uruguay.

Ogenyi Onazi.
Ogenyi Onazi.

The head coach of the African champions, Stephen Keshi, hinted on Wednesday that the Lazio of Italy midfielder has lost in the bid to link up with the squad. Onazi sustained a knee injury in the 1-1 draw against Namibia in Windhoek and Keshi had earlier expressed optimism on his availability for Thursday’s encounter.

He has now suggested that Onazi, who remained in Nigeria for treatment, will have to stay put so as to recuperate fully ahead of the remaining World Cup qualifiers.

“Up to now we don’t know. I’m not sure if he’s coming,” Keshi said during Wednesday’s pre-match press conference at Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova.

“We’re not too much in haste. We have three very important World Cup games in September, October and November.

“Those are more important for us, although of course the Confederations Cup is good for us too. We don’t want to push him too much. We want to let him be ready.”

Stephen Keshi.
Stephen Keshi.

Keshi refused to comment on the demonstrations that have rocked Brazil since the commencement of the World Cup dress-rehearsal, which has been said to be a general outcry by the public on the improper allocation of public funds amid poverty and against the hike in transport fares.

“I think whatever the public are doing is something related to politics and other stuff,” he said.

“We keep football apart from politics. I don’t think it’s something to take the concentration away from football. In Nigeria we try to keep both separate.”

Thursday’s game is crucial in all its ramifications as both sides will be gunning for victory to stand the chance of proceeding to the semi-final stage of the tournament. Tactically, the presence of Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez in the Uruguayans lineup, poses a threat to even the most compact defence in the world.

Keshi described the game as a “final”, but claimed he was not necessarily troubled by the prospect of facing the South American champions.

“What I’m worried about is my team,” he said.

“If they can play to the tactical plan that we’re working on and concentrate for 95 minutes, then we’ll be fine, no problem.”

On reports that Uruguay will play with a three-man defence, Keshi said: “What Uruguay are doing is Uruguay’s plan. I will have my own plan for Nigeria and we’ll see what happens.”