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Nigeria beat Ethiopia to clinch spot in Brazil

Nov 16, 2013, 11:58 AM EST

Nigerian midfielder Efe Ambrose (L) congratulates his teammate Victor Moses after he scored during the FIFA World Cup qualifying football match Nigeria vs Malawi in Calabar on September 7, 2013. Getty Images

Nigeria are through to their fifth World Cup in the past two decades, thanks to a 4-1 aggregate win over Ethiopia. The Super Eagles win was really no surprise, given that they came to Nigeria with a 2-1 victory. But goals from Victor Moses and Victor Obinna sealed the deal, and Nigeria are now free to book themselves tickets to Brazil — after a crazy party, one hopes.

The first goal came 20 minutes into the first half, when Victor Moses stepped up to the spot in hopes of putting a Nigeria win out of reach. He sent his penalty kick low and to his right, while Ethiopia goalkeeper Sisay Bancha went the other way. The Super Eagles’ second came courtesy of the man who had replaced Moses just minutes before. Victor Obinna sent in a lovely free kick, albeit straight at the keeper. Bancha should have done better but the ball seemed to fly through the keeper’s fingers, landing in the back of the net…or possibly in Brazil.

There’s a smidgen of sadness surrounding this one, at least for the neutrals. For Ethiopia, it must be more than a smidgen. They were the continent’s Cinderella story. After finally qualifying this year for their first Africa Cup of Nations in over 30 years, they had a chance to make it to their first ever World Cup. The Walias were the last remaining team to make it through from the first round of qualifiers, the ones that Africa’s lesser-ranked sides must go through. They made it through a tough match against Nigeria only to see a harsh penalty awarded that gave the visitors the lead. And in this match, the first goal came in the same manner, with the referee calling a handball on Aynalem Hailu, the same player who conceded the last minute penalty in the first leg.

But, however much the fans might want a fairy tale ending, players and coaches aren’t paid to deliver one. Nigeria’s mission was to make it to Brazil, no matter what good storylines they might wreck while getting there. The Super Eagles accomplished that mission, and it’s now time for Stephen Keshi to concentrate on how to ready his side to face the best in the world.

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