Nigeria's clash against Sudan on Saturday in Khartoum is one of the most important matches the Super Eagles will play in a long while because of what is at stake.
After winning the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations title in South Africa, a lot was expected from this Nigeria side.
A second exit at the Fifa World Cup in Brazil was supposed to be a catalyst for progression.
That doesn't look like the case right now.
Losing to Congo in Calabar, a first in almost 29 years, rang the alarm bells. A drab scoreless draw in Cape Town gave credence to the critics who felt coach Stephen Keshi has brought the team as far as he can go.
A home loss and one point from a possible six isn't the type of form expected of the reigning African champions.
Nigeria now have to come back from Khartoum with points on the deck and complete the business in the return leg next Wednesday.
9jafooty looks at five things the Super Eagles must do if they hope to get something from the game against Sudan.
Stay compact, lock shop.
Sudan will definitely come out of the blocks with a bang looking to unsettle Nigeria early in the game. This is where the Super Eagles must hold firm. The first 15-20 minutes will be crucial for the Eagles. They need to stick to the task and contain Sudan, blocking all the channels and frustrating the home side.
If the Super Eagles can weather the storm in the opening exchanges, then they do have a bright chance of getting something out of the game or an outright win.
Mudathir ElTayeb, popularly known as 'Kareka' in Sudanese football circles, is the Falcons of Jediane's version of Emmanuel Emenike.
The 26-year-old is Sudan's main man in attack and can cause problems for Nigeria if given the chance. He has an impressive record of 54 goals in 85 matches for his club Al Hilal and also scored twice for Sudan at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations where they made the knockout stage.
If the Eagles can stop him, then half of the job is done already.
|pic courtesy fifa.com|
Use the wings, soar Eagles
South Africa had so much joy using the wings against Sudan on match day one. Two of their three goals in Omdurman came from the wings and Nigeria can also exploit those areas.
Ahmed Musa's pace down the flanks should prove pivotal if this pans out the same way. Emmanuel Emenike's 'battering ram' style of play would be an ace if the Eagles can use the wings and get the Fenerbahce man near the Sudanese final third.
The game in Khartoum will be won and lost in the midfield, and this is where Nigeria need to be on top. Mikel Obi has to stand up and be counted this time out.
The Chelsea man, arguably the poster boy of the Super Eagles, has gone missing in crucial moments during the World Cup and the qualifiers and, for his much vaunted talent, hasn't produced much for the Eagles recently.
With talented midfielders like Ogenyi Onazi, Nosa Igiebor and debutant Hope Akpan, Keshi has to find a balance in the area so that the Eagles don't get run aground again like Congo did in Calabar last month.
The Super Eagles will have to contend with the humid temperature in Sudan, when the game kicks off. Luckily, the game is scheduled for a late kickoff ( 8pm Sudan time, 6pm Nigerian time) so the Eagles won't have to battle the heat.
Nigeria must be ready to work extra hard and hold their lungs afloat for the duration of the game. South Africa tired out towards the last 10 minutes which gave the Sudanese the ascendancy, albeit that they couldn't score.
Fitness is key here. The Super Eagles must dig deep and keep their engines running for ninety minutes as Keshi must make sure only the fittest players start the game.