Drumbeats from Constantine, rushes for Russia

By Ikenna Okonkwo on 26/11/2017

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Celebration galore: Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr

Expectations and indeed the anxiety which qualification processes to 2018 FIFA World Cup carried have finally died down after no fewer than 32 Nations emerged to berth at Russia when soccer hostilities at next year’s showpiece gets underway in Russia.

However, the drama and shock which followed is already pocketed in the archive of history. Big sporting countries including United States, Holland, Cameroon, Ghana, Italy and Chile were surprisingly dropped aside. These Nations with their array of stars will also be absent at the Mundial.

The scar this no-show similitude will have on all concerned would eventually not go down well especially for footballers looking for how to use the tournament to re-launch their career path.

Perhaps, the biggest take away after the downfall of these football powerhouses in various continents is that the idea of ‘some teams are unbeatable’ is now a thing of the past.

Winning matches and qualifying to be at the World Cup is not a guarantee for any team to think that all is now well. There could still be more surprises in Russia among the sides that eventually made it there but the truth remains that adequate preparation without dwelling much on any previous achievement will be key to a successful World Cup outing.

Permutations that will determine how teams are placed

It is no longer news that five continents are parading varying number of teams with Europe having highest number of 14 World Cup slots.

As the world wait for the draws slated for December 1, a number of factors will determine placements. Already, the seeding has been done arising from how countries are situated in the latest FIFA ranking. Super Eagles where the interest of over 180 million fans are ranked 41 behind African rivals Egypt, Tunisia and Senegal and are fixed in pot one alongside Serbia, Australia, Japan, Morocco, Panama, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.  

 The 32 qualified will then be drawn into eight groups of four, which will be labelled from A to H. Seeding Pots one to four will be completely emptied by allocating each of their eight teams to a different group.

FIFA had confirmed that the principle of keeping teams from the same confederation apart would be retained. For example, Brazil, who are in Pot one cannot be paired with Colombia, who are also part of CONMEBOL (the South American confederation).

An exception applies to UEFA teams, with FIFA ruling that up to two teams from the European confederation can be drawn in the same group.

Final showdown for Super Eagles 

Last Friday, November 10 was precisely the day Nigeria’s Super Eagles played their last qualifier match ahead of 2018 FIFA World Cup against the Desert Warriors of Algeria. That game ended 1-1 after Gabon Referee controversially handed a late penalty to the host team.

It was an encounter that neither of the countries required to get to the next level of the qualification series yet the atmosphere around Constantine, venue of the match stood charged right from the day before the ‘dead-rubber’ clash.

Thank God Super Eagles had nothing to play for before that day. The hostile nature North African countries were known for somehow reared up its head. The entrance into the Mohamed Hamlaoui Stadium where both Warriors and Eagles met was heavily decorated by armed and unarmed security Men that initially refused some Officials of the Nigeria Football Federation entry into the arena.

Ordinary, no one expects such sought of tensed atmosphere in any case. The immediate lesson learnt is that making use of chances early enough pays just as Nigeria Men senior team utilized.

Don’t forget, the Nigerian team tutored by Coach Gernor Rohr never lost a match throughout the qualifier. Out of six games played, Cameroon and Algeria managed to pull a draw.  Now that Argentina have been conquered by Nigeria in a recent test game, many of the view that anything is possible in Russia.

Even as the excitement is yet to die down, Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Barr Solomon Dalung has taken credit for latest exploits and claimed that nothing less than N7 billion was saved by the federal government after there was no blotted budget earmarked for the qualifying series amidst constitution of Presidential committee.

The much I could remember was that Presidential committee drawn up in the past mainly served for the purposes of prosecuting the World Cup proper and that the government then tasked them to generate funds from spirited individuals ready to support the quest for Nigeria to make quality representation the global fiesta.

My take! Embracing credit for any success achieved at any point is not too big deal but ensuring greater commitment in fortifying the team with required and timely funding would be a better way out.

Image result for super eagles

 

Fare thee well, Buffon!

Italy will be the only former World Cup winner that will be absent at the 2018 edition of the competition. Not only will it be the first time since the 1958 edition that Italy will be absent, the elimination by  Sweden on Monday night has forced the Italian legendary goalkeeper into international retirement.

What an irony. The only World Cup finals that Italy had missed before now was the one held in Sweden in 1958. Paradoxically, it is Sweden the host of that edition that has prevented Italy from the World Cup 60 years later.

Following the FIFA World Cup winner Gianluigi Buffon had been within touching distance of history but ultimately his Italy side fell just short of winning a ticket to Russia 2018.

For Buffon, defeat against Sweden also brought down the curtain on a wonderful career at international level.

A lone first-leg goal for Sweden proved enough for them to progress at Italy’s expense, leaving Gli Azzurri set to miss their first World Cup since 1958.

An appearance at Russia 2018 would have seen the 39-year-old equal the record of five World Cups, a mark previously reached by Mexico goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal and Germany midfielder Lothar Matthaus. Buffon was also an unused substitute at a sixth World Cup in 1998.

Instead the Juventus icon, who was recently named winner of The Best FIFA Goalkeeper Award, was left to bid an emotional farewell to the international stage after 20 years.

Image result for buffonBuffon is comfortably Italy’s most-capped player (175 appearances) amid a host of other distinctions achieved since his debut in 1997.

He was a key figure in 2006, when Italy won the World Cup in 2006 for a fourth time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source Whirlwindnews

Posted on November, 26 2017

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