CONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: DOLPHINS, SUNSHINE, HEARTLAND WALK TIGHT ROPES
Nigeria's three representatives in this year's continental championships will this afternoon file out for crucial ties, as they battle to remain in both the Orange CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup.
Dolphins of Port Harcourt and Sunshine Stars of Akure are involved in the CAF Champions League, while Heartland of Owerri is representing the country in the CAF Confederation Cup and this afternoon, it will be filling out at the Dan Anyiam Stadium to do battle against Unisport of Cameroon in the second leg of the first round encounter for the season. Their first encounter in Cameroon a fortnight ago ended in a goalless draw despite the Owerri side dominating during the entire encounter.
The two Nigerian representatives in the CAF Champions League will be walking tight ropes because the results they recorded during their first leg encounters were not impressive. The Port Harcourt-based Dolphins, which is Nigeria's domestic league defending champion, managed a 2-1 victory over its opponent, Coton Sport of Garoua, Cameroon and many followers of football believe that it might take Dolphins some extra effort to come out of today's encounter unscratched.
Dolphins' Coach, Stanley Eguma, will bank on his key players like Ifeanyi Egwim, Isiaka Olawale and goalkeeper Sunday Rotimi to salvage what looks like a precarious situation. Eguma will have to go into his technical archive to bring out some tricks to ensure his side survives in Garoua. Meanwhile, the Olusegun Mimiko Sunshine Stars has an uphill task to upturn the 4-1 defeat it suffered in the hands of its Angolan opponent, Lucrativo Libobo a fortnight ago. While Dolphins will be away to Coton Sport in Cameroon, Sunshine will be playing at home in front of its vociferous fans, who must try and cheer the team to victory during the 90 minutes the hostility will last.
Like Dolphins, the technical crew of Sunshine led by Gbenga Ogunbote has a lot of work to do for the Akure-based side to salvage the very sorry situation it is into going into today's match. The players the coach will rely on to do the job of pushing the team's luck further include Gbenga Ajani, Super Eagles' player, Godfrey Oboabona and goalkeeper Moses Ocheje. Meanwhile, it is going to be 90 minutes of action at the Dan Anyiam Stadium when Heartland welcomes Unisport of Cameroon in a CAF Confederation Cup encounter and the Owelle Rochas Okorocha boys will have to convince their numerous supporters that they are serious contenders for the title.
The experience of players like Ikechukwu Ibenegbu (Mosquito), Super Eagles' defender, Chibuzor Okonkwo, captain Chinedu Efugh and others will come to play in this encounter for Heartland to give its fans something to cheer about this afternoon at the Dan Anyiam Stadium.
The more serious the Nazi Millionaires take today's encounter, the better because any attempt to rely on the fact that the first leg ended in a barren draw a fortnight ago and, therefore become complacent, will spell doom for the Owerri side. A score draw will be the end of the road for the Owerri side. Therefore, Heartland should take whatever chance on its way to ensure that it moves ahead in this year's CAF Confederation Cup.