SOWETO, South Africa, February 9- Victor Moses has exploded on to the Africa Cup of Nations scene on his debut appearance, the pacey Chelsea winger making a huge contribution to Nigeria’s run to Sunday’s final.
The Super Eagles were 11 minutes away in their closing group game from taking an early flight back to Lagos, only for the Stamford Bridge star to score the first of two penalties that would keep them in the competition.
That Moses-led 2-0 win over Ethiopia gave Nigeria the runners-up spot behind surprise table-toppers Burkina Faso.
Moses, who missed his side’s 1-1 opening draw with the Burkinabe because of a hamstring injury, could not have imagined then he would get another crack at taking on the Stallions in the final at Soccer City.
He entered the Nations Cup fray in the 1-1 draw with Zambia, being replaced late on after picking up another minor injury.
In the 2-1 quarter-final win over Ivory Coast and the 4-1 victory over Mali in Wednesday’s semi-final, Moses’ put in manful performances. Sharp and quick, he made a menace of himself, usually down the left flank.
Against Mali, he picked up yet another injury, having to come off on 52 minutes wth a left ankle problem this time, but all the signs are he will take his place on the pitch in Soweto.
“Lot of people asking about my injury. I’m having treatment and hopefully should be fine for the final” he posted on his twitter page.
After seeing off Mali, he wrote: “Absolutely buzzing amazing win bring on the final!”
Moses’ route to Soweto has been punctured with tragedy, his parents were killed in sectarian riots.
The slaying of his father, Austin, a Christian pastor in Kaduna, and mother, Josephine, in northern city Kaduna forced the 11-year-old Moses to flee to England.
“Wherever they are at the moment, they should be proud of me, looking down, being proud,” Moses told British media last year.
Since Rafael Benitez arrived as manager of Chelsea, Moses has enjoyed a bigger role at Stamford Bridge, and he will be returning to west London on a high after his buoyant display in South Africa.
At one stage it looked as though Nigeria would miss out on his talents after he represented England at age-group levels.
But after a protracted processing of his change of international allegiance, he made his long-awaited debut as a late substitute in a 2013 Nations Cup qualifier away to Rwanda last February.
He was tentative at the start of his Eagles career, but underlined his class last October with two well-taken goals in another Nations Cup qualifier at home to Liberia.
And he hasn’t looked back since.