Football: Eagles' flying marathon a worry ahead of Kenya

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Travel-weary African champions Nigeria are away to Kenya on Wednesday in a 2014 World Cup qualifier they dare not lose, with only the group winners progressing to the final round.

The "Super Eagles" go into the matchday-four fixture level on five points and goal difference in Group F with Malawi and top of the table because they have scored more.

Namibia, away to Malawi in a match that kicks off 30 minutes earlier, have three points and Kenya two in a mini-league where goals have been a scarce commodity.

Only seven have been scored in six matches, with Nigeria averaging just one a game when edging out Namibia and being held by Malawi and Kenya.

A home win over the Namibian "Brave Warriors" and an away draw with the Malawian "Flames" were satisfactory results but the home draw with the Kenyan "Harambee Stars" was not.

And the outcome could have been even worse for the Africa Cup of Nations title holders as Nnamdi Oduamadi equalised deep in stoppage time to salvage a point.

Now a Kenyan side coached by Belgian Adel Amrouche have home advantage and are raring to have another crack at a country they have never conquered in the Kenyan capital.

Nigerian preparations have been far from ideal and they will clock 20,000-plus km by the time they touch down in Kenya just 24 hours before the big match.

The Super Eagles drew 2-2 with Mexico last Friday in Houston, Texas, and returned to a training camp in Germany before flying to Nairobi via the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

"It will definitely have an effect," was the reaction of coach Stephen Keshi to the travel arrangements. "We may not have time for a full practice session in Kenya.

"My footballers need as much training as possible because a few problems cropped up during the match against Mexico and they need to be sorted out.

"The Kenya game will resemble a cup final. It is never easy to win away in Africa and we have to prove that we are worthy champions in Kenya this week."

Keshi said midfielders John Ogu and Ogenyi Onazi and striker Ideye Brown took knocks against Mexico but he expects the Europe-based trio to be available.

Kenya may have battled at home against Nigeria in the past but there was no inferiority complex from Oman-based star Jamal Mohammed after a training session.

"If we defeat Nigeria no one can stop us and the team may start thinking realistically about the World Cup in Brazil next year," the midfielder told reporters.

He admitted that the absence of goalkeeper Arnold Origi and striker and skipper Dennis Oliech through suspension was a double blow to the Harambee Stars.

Malawi coach Eddington Ng'onamo has recalled midfielder Dave Banda and equally experienced striker Chiukepo Msowoya for the clash with Namibia at the Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.

He believes that playing on the artificial pitch at the national stadium in the commercial capital will assist the Flames, who have never come close to reaching the World Cup.