NAIROBI, Kenya, June 5- It is difficult to create heroes from defeat it was once said but in Celtic FC star, Victor Wanyama, even Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi admitted he was a winner as Harambee Stars succumbed to the Super Eagles in their backyard on Wednesday.
Statistics will show the teams have clashed 15 times in total, with Nigeria winning 12 and Kenya managing to draw thrice with the reigning African champions but Wanyama’s show of brutal energy in the middle of the pack was a tale by itself.
“We did not deserve to lose today, we were just unlucky. They caught us on the counter attack and scored but, the best team lost.
“It was a very important game and unfortunately we lost. We still have two games left and we can make it to eight points and take it from there,” the player who won admiration from all present said with tears welling in his eyes as Kenya’s World Cup hopes took a debilitating blow.
Until when he first collapsed in a heap on 67 minutes then again with 12 to the final whistle after he was clipped twice on the same shin, fellow Chelsea FC and Nigerian midfield general, John Obi Mikel barely got a look in during the game.
It was not therefore, not a surprise that the winner came when the Wanyama force waned with the Super Eagles getting into their range.
The otherwise excellent Ahmed Musa got just reward for his industry and purpose by sending a deft chip over Duncan Ochieng in the 81st minute for the winner after substitute Stephen Waruru lost the ball deep in the Nigerian territory and defender Efe Ambrose lifted it over the backline.
“It was important because he is a very creative good player. If you give him the opportunity, he will destroy a team but it wasn’t just him, we took the whole team as a unit and made sure we lock them down.
“He is one of them, excellent player, I wish I can have him for Nigeria! Can I take him?” Super Eagles boss, Keshi, said amid laughter from the press pack majority who felt the pain Wanyama was going through at the time.
It was left to the 21-year-old who is coveted by top clubs worldwide to carry the team in the absence of the side’s talisman and regular captain, striker Dennis Oliech upfront and first choice keeper, Arnold Origi at the back following their suspensions from the game.
Head coach, Adel Amrouche, was also forced to watch the duel from the stands since he was also in Fifa’s naughty step.
“We need all the important players. Today, I don’t think we were that bad and it was just a little bit of poor combination in front and finishing but the players did well. It was a bit down but we will work on it.
“We wanted to go out and win and we were caught, we always want to win and we did not plan to play for a draw,” the captain of the day added.
Wanyama declined to blame lack of mobility upfront on Al Nasr based forward, Kepha Aswani who came in to fill the void of Oliech but after struggling through the opening minutes with a hamstring strain, drew vociferous calls to be substituted from the stands barely 20 minutes in.
“It was difficult for Kepha as a main striker in his first start. It was his first game playing under this system but he tried but with a bit of concentration, he will be fine.
“We have a good coach and a young team and if we stay together, we shall be a good team. We need time to grow together and then we shall see,” he stressed.
“It’s not easy coming in and trying to get into the game especially against the African champions. We missed the coach a little bit since he is an important person at the bench.”
Wanyama acknowledged he was ready to be a target of some rough house treatment during the match owing to his bludgeoning reputation.
“I knew it was going to be tough but I had to keep on moving. I went for the ball and one guy caught my shin and I knew they wanted to get me.
“Now, we just have to look ahead, work hard and rectify our mistakes so that we can get good results.”
And in a testament of how he has developed to be a professional European star who does not give away what he is not supposed to, Wanyama deftly deflected speculation of his future at Parkhead with links to various clubs being reported daily.
The latest was a 10 million pound bid interest by EPL side Arsenal.
“I’m in the national team right now and I just want to focus on national duty and when I return to my club, I will let you know what is going on.”
With that, he rose to accept the adulation from autograph and photo hunters and being the only Kenyan who got a Nigerian jersey at the end of the game albeit from Celtic team mate Efe Ambrose, there was no doubt in which team he really belonged.