Eagles: After World Cup ticket, comes the real deal

By Ikenna Okonkwo on 16/10/2017

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Super Eagles Goalkeeper, Ikechukwu Ezenwa

Birds freeze in the air, highways, streets got dry, all stayed glued to their television sets and then the atmosphere all of a sudden went agog with unstoppable jubilation at exactly 74 minutes of play when prolific striker and ‘super’ substitute, Alex Iwobi whose strike in second half of the penultimate World Cup qualifier game between Nigeria and Zambia earned Super Eagles a much-coveted place at Russia in 2018.

That lone goal which shook opponents’ net on the 7th day of October, 2017, inside Uyo stadium, popularly known as Nest of Champions, packed with Spectators did not only ensure that Africa’s largest country were the first to qualify for the mundial but it equally guaranteed a sixth world Cup appearance for football loving Nigerians on a month Nigeria was still marking her 57th independence from colonial rule.

It was indeed a sweet-savouring victory in all ramifications for millions of soccer lovers both within and outside the country who daily grapple for something to cheer concerning their darling fatherland that has been characterised by intense political intrigues amidst other uncertainties.

Not many will remember that the victory over Zambia was a deserved pay-back time, way back for the Southern Africa team. The Zambians popularly known as KK 11 stopped Nigeria from being at 1974 World Cup after they beat the Nigerian team home and away. Though, it was Zaire that eventually went to the tournament when Africa had only one slot.

Image result for super eagles

In any case, Sports and football in particular seem to be the only antidote that arrest discordant tunes that usually resurrect in all of us especially when the expected result shows up. Yet, the human capital investment and responsiveness channelled towards this sector by the powers that be has remained a source of worry to many especially the teeming unemployed youths.  Anyway, let’s enjoy this special moment and allow this matter which we will hopefully dwell on, next time.

Back to the business of the day, Nigeria with arguably the best football talents in Africa often had tough times en route various qualifications to either World Cup or Nations Cup.

Even those that long forgot how to use calculator, always had a reason to dust it up and perhaps join the coaching crew to carry out the entire plus and minus of points in any group their country which is now enjoying sought of football rejuvenation finds itself.

In fact, the anxiety that beclouded Nigeria’s entrance into Russia, venue of next year’s global event garnered more cloud after Super Eagles failed to qualify for Africa Cup of Nations consecutively ahead of 2015 and 2017 continental showpiece. That was after same team emerged a force to reckon with, following their surprise exploits at 2013 event in South Africa under the then head Coach, Stephen Keshi of the blessed memory.

Since then, once revered team went lost and their stock kept going down by the day to the extent that most ‘weak’ opponents, both within Africa and beyond dreaded them no more.  Thereafter, Supporters and indeed sponsors’ confidence gradually weaned.

Image result for super eaglesNot until the squad now coached by a German-Franco gaffer, Gernor Rohr re-enacted their winning mentality after he was hired last year by the Nation’s football governing body, previous coaches including Sunday Oliseh and Samson Siasia failed. Though losing an all important first Nation’s cup qualifier against Rivals South Africa earlier this year under Coach Rohr in front of teeming fans at home ahead of 2019 AFCON, triggered a fresh territorial doubts.  

Barely a year after Nigeria conquered Africa to emerge champions again since Nations Cup began; this same South Africa’s Bafana Bafana inflicted no-show pains on three-time continental victors in Uyo to deny them a ticket.

But there came a soothing relief on her way to Russia with Super Eagles leading its current world cup circle with 13 comfortable points after five matches, ambitious and closest chasers, Chipolopolo of Zambia have only seven points in their kitty. Just one game is now left for both two sides to prosecute, as long as the qualifier is concerned. Even at that, it could simply be to make up the numbers.

And so, the seemingly easy way the present campaign was decided with a match to spare has restored more trust in the sense that the last time Nigeria qualified for the World Cup with a game at hand was back then in 1997, ahead of 1998 competition.

As at last count, no fewer than 12 countries including Nigeria, host Nation Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Belgium, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Germany, England and Spain have book their place to be present at the old rich land come next year.

But the truth is that the celebration for the first Africa representative at the 2018 global soccer showpiece has to now be transformed to preparation.

Admittedly, the Nigerian senior Men team are the second highest rated African team ever at World Cup behind Cameroon based on number of appearances but are yet to go beyond round of 16 at any time.

Historically, three African teams including Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010 have beat this record and made it to the quarter-final stage.

Not until 1994 when the populous Nigeria republic with Clement Westerhorf as head coach of Super Eagles first qualified for the world football event, there have been quashed attempts since 1970’s but the 1994 squad made up of most exiting players the country has ever had, proved spectacular.

Since then, a bright turn on the world scene came our way with assured participation at every edition. However, many are now seeking for improved outing.

Image result for super eaglesFor the team to surpass previous feat, the Nigeria Football Federation need not to be told that top notch friendly games have to be put in place shortly after December 1, 2017 when Coach Rohr-tutored Eagles will know their foes. Selection process without any form of bias or influence should be the focus of the technical crew.

Image result for super eagles

 

Source Whirlwindnews.com

Posted on October, 16 2017

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