Soccer enthusiasts and analysts warn Nigeria against the tendency to believe that it can emerge top of a World Cup Group F that looks easy on paper without working hard for it
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Dec. 16, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
ALL is now set for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with the draw of the preliminary stages of the tournament on Friday, December 6 in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia State, Brazil. The Super Eagles of Nigeria was handed what looked like an easy group in the preliminary stage. Nigeria will face Argentina, Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina in Group F of the preliminary round. Many Nigerians have reacted to the draw, with some ex-internationals, saying that Nigeria has the opportunity to perform better in Brazil. Mutiu Adepoju, Taribo West and Joseph Dosu, have described the World Cup draw as good. Also, Nduka Ugbade, Emeka Ezeugo, Garba Lawal and Christian Chukwu, who also expressed optimism, said the group would favour the Eagles.
The ex-players, however, predicted a tough game against Argentina, who has beaten Nigeria in its last three meetings in the football showpiece. They warned the Eagles not to underestimate Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran, saying “there are no longer minnows in football.”
Adepoju said there’s no group that is easy at the World Cup, but thinks that Nigeria has an acceptable draw. He called for early preparations for the tournament scheduled to take place between June 12 and July 13, 2014. Taribo said it’s not an easy group, but thinks the Super Eagles will reach the second round. “It’s going to be difficult against Argentina but we’ll beat the other teams.”
Chukwu urged the Eagles to go for victory in every game. “I think the group is good for us. We have lost to Argentina thrice in the competition; this is the time to revenge. We shouldn’t write off Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina and concentrate on Argentina. It could be dangerous. We should play a series of friendly matches against Asia, Europe and South American teams to prepare for the tournament,” he said.
Adegboye Onigbinde, former Super Eagles coach, said the Super Eagles have all it takes to perform well in the group and qualify for the next round. He said Nigeria should look beyond qualifying for the second round. He said that the Eagles should be targeting lifting the coveted trophy and should not consider themselves as inferior to other countries that would be on parade in Brazil next year.
Onigbinde warned that only adequate preparation and proper self belief are the ingredients that the Eagles need to conquer the world next year. “There is no short cut to success. I don’t believe in saying that a particular country is stronger or another is weaker. With adequate preparation, the Eagles can face any country. We should not be talking about qualifying for the second round at this stage, but we should work towards winning the World Cup. We must learn to respect our opponents but the key note is adequate preparation,” he said.
On his part, President Goodluck Jonathan has said that the Super Eagles will have a victorious outing in the 2014 World Cup. President Jonathan expressed optimism that Nigeria would perform well, particularly at the preliminary stage of the tournament. “In winning the World Cup, we are quite hopeful that Nigeria will do very well. We have won the Olympic gold in soccer before, we have won under-17 World Cup four times and we have been doing quite well in the U-20 competition. So, I believe and the world knows that Nigeria is a football nation even though we have not had the opportunity or luck of winning the World Cup. Within the zone that Nigeria will play, Argentina is a strong soccer nation but Nigeria is also strong and I believe we will do well,” he said.
Meanwhile, Saft Susic, BosniaHerzegovina coach, has already conceded Group F leadership to Argentina even before the tournament begins. He said after the draw that Argentina is the favorite in the group and his team will fight for the second place with Nigeria. “I don’t know much about Iran and Nigeria, but I know that Nigeria played frequently at the World Cup and we should not underestimate Iran. We have good chances of making it to the second round. When I see whom Croatia has drawn, we have to be happy with our group.”
Alejandro Sabella, Argentina coach, said he knows nothing about the Super Eagles after the FIFA World Cup draw puts his team in Group F alongside Nigeria, Iran and Boznia-Herzegovina. “I will have to start studying our rivals because I do not know much about them. We played Bosnia recently so I know a little on that team, but nothing about Iran and Nigeria and that could be dangerous. We are happy with the outcome. Aside from the teams, it is very good for us because of distances and temperatures. In Porto Alegre, we will play at noon and the city is in the south, so there aren’t very high temperatures,” he said.
Carlos Queiroz, Irancoach, also acknowledged Nigeria as a strong opposition after his team was placed in the same group with the African champion. He stated that Nigeria is a good team, but was quick to warn that it would be wrong for anyone to write his team off. “Nigeria is playing very well at the moment. Playing in the World Cup is an opportunity for every participating team, and based on this, it will be wrong for anybody to write off any team,” he said.
With the draw, the qualification party has been brought to an end. The competition is now here. For Nigeria to go to Brazil and not perform better than the four previous qualifications will amount to an anti-climax. The Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, must therefore do all in its power to liaise with the federal government with a view to extending full support to the team to succeed. This is the time to sit down and talk about bonuses and allowances. This is the time to decide on and thrash out all those components that have, in the past, impacted negatively on the country’s success.