Ethiopia Five Reasons

By Endale Mitiku

Before getting into the reasons, it is better to slightly crunch numbers so that the head-to-head encounters of the teams and their qualification campaign are shown clearly. In doing so, I consider Ethiopia’s victory against Botswana as a win to Ethiopia although official records show the reverse. My reason is that Ethiopia won on the pitch but lost the match in office.

In the last two years, the two teams have met three times including this year’s Africa Cup of Nations. In those occasions, Nigeria scored 8 goals and Ethiopia – 2 times. Three of the Nigerian eight goals were scored by Uche, two by Utaka, two by Moses and one by Yobo. For Ethiopia, it is Saladin who has the two in his name.

When considering the current form of the teams, Ethiopia has never lost in an official match since its defeat by Nigeria the eventual champions of the cup of nations. The unbeaten run extends to five successive home and away fixtures in which the team won all of them. The Waliyas scored nine goals and conceded three. Nigeria has also three consecutive wins which includes two friendly matches.

In the World Cup qualifiers, Ethiopia won five of the six second round matches and drew the rest. It collected 16 out of the possible 18 points. In those matches, it scored 15 goals and conceded only 3. The team scored on both rounds on an average 1.67 goals and conceded 0.33 goals per game.

Nigeria did manage to win three of the six and the rest three ended in a draw.  In total, they scored 7 goals and conceded 3. Here it has to be noted that Nigeria didn’t play the first round of qualification due to their high FIFA ranking. The average number of goals they scored is 1.17 and they conceded 0.5 goals per match. The highest score they have is 2, which they scored against Malawi.

In terms of disciplinary record, Ethiopian players received 12 yellow cards and 1 red card. On the other hand, no Nigerian player sent off with a red card but they got 6 yellow cards.

Both teams didn’t suffer a loss in their qualification campaigns.  Moreover, both teams have never failed to score both at home and away. Having these let’s go into the reasons.

  • Ethiopia’s trajectory is upward – Since the away draw against South Africa, Ethiopia managed to score 2 goals in three matches and 1 goal in only 1 match. This includes a win against South Africa and an away victory over Central African Republic. When looking at the FIFA’s ranking, Ethiopia stood at 102nd place in August 2013 and now climbed up to 93rd. When the two teams met in January 2013, Ethiopia was at 110th place. This shows that the team is mounting through time by beating the likes of South Africa, which stood 46 places above Ethiopia when they faced each other in June and repeated against Central Africa Republic which even was above South Africa and Nigeria in the January 2013 of FIFA’s ranking. Thus, it is hard to come up with a reason that revert this trend.
  • Nigeria struggled against smaller teams – If we have doubt about the FIFA’s ranking, we can look at Nigeria’s performance against teams which are known to be inferior to them. In the qualification matches they drew at home against Kenya, away against Malawi and away against Namibia. The 2-0 victory against Malawi is their highest result. Apart from that, they won 1-0 away in Kenya. For those who say Ethiopia is as weak as those teams, Nigeria only edged the teams. The Eagles have no resounding victory to mention. Therefore, they will keep struggling against Ethiopia as well.
  • The quality and cohesion of the Ethiopian squad has improved – After the last time the two teams met, a number of Ethiopian players have obtained offers from foreign clubs that play in countries which have a better football infrastructure and level of professionalism.  After the last cup of nations, the spine of the team which includes Getaneh Kebede, Shimeles Bekele, Asrat Megerssa, and Addis Hintsa obtained better experience abroad. Moreover, Saladin Seid though he returned back to Africa played in Europe for a short spell. In addition to this, these same players have been playing for longer period of time under the same manager. This helps the team to be more fluid, mobile and create more cohesion between the players. Consequently, the Waliyas will be strong opponent to Nigeria.  
  •  The level of pressure on Ethiopia is less than on Nigeria – Ethiopia has never reached this level in its long football history. Fans are happy in seeing their team achieving this. Though there is a need to see Ethiopia playing in Brazil, it is not as a must do request as the Nigerians have. By participating in the four of the last five world cups, Nigeria puts the bar very high. Anything less than qualification is not acceptable for the Super Eagles and this immerses Nigeria in more pressure than Ethiopia. This favors Ethiopia.
  • There is rage and determination in the Ethiopian camp – The poor head-to head result coupled with some of the comments that few of the Nigerian players and coaching staffs gave, created rage in the Ethiopian side. Though their comments can’t overshadow the event, the Ethiopian players and the manager are expected to respond with a passion. This may backfire on Ethiopia by forcing the players to over commit themselves and become victims of yellow and red cards, which the team’s record in this respect is poor.  However, wise channeling and management of rage, as many managers in the modern sport are doing can excel the team. If the Ethiopian manager, Sewnet Bishaw, does this assignment it can be a reason for Ethiopian victory.

Time is ticking hard and fast. We will soon see what will happen.