Nigeria, Cote d’ Ivoire, Cameroon, Ghana and Algeria have booked their tickets as African representative teams at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Dec. 2, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
UNLIKE in the past, the Super Eagles of Nigeria on Saturday, November 16, became the first African country to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after beating Ethiopia 2-0 in Calabar. Goals from Victor Moses and Victor Obinna sealed the fate of the Ethiopians with an aggregate score of four goals to one.
Nigeria is through to its fifth World Cup final having previously qualified in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2010. The Super Eagles will travel to Brazil with the hope of reaching the knock-out stage since France 1998. En route to Brazil, Super Eagles conceded only four goals in eight matches and did not lose any game in Calabar, the home of the national team.
Despite the victory, Stephen Keshi, coach of the team, said his players performed below expectation. He attributed the poor performance to anxiety of picking a World Cup ticket. Keshi remarked that there was so much tension in the camp as the players were anxious of the fact that it was the last chance they had for the 2014 World Cup. “We were very anxious in this game, but we should still be proud of ourselves because we have made history. It is a wonderful day and we have cause to celebrate,” he said.
Mikel Obi, Super Eagles midfielder, said after the encounter that the Super Eagles will cause some upsets at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He said Nigeria has the potentials to upset the world at next year’s World Cup, if the players played with the same spirit that enabled the team to win the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa earlier this year. “The potentials are obvious but we must avoid arrogance and complacency. With that, this team will go places,” he said.
The feat has attracted commendations from Nigerians nationwide. President Goodluck Jonathan said in a statement by Reuben Abati, his special adviser on media and publicity, that he was happy to join other proud and happy Nigerians in applauding the Super Eagles’ dogged and determined performance against the Ethiopians over a two-leg final qualifying round which secured away and home victories, and also ensured that Nigeria will be at the World Cup finals for the fifth time.”
The President equally commended the team’s performance in all the preceding qualifying matches and the consistent commitment and dedication of the players to build on their victory at this year’s African Nations Cup by qualifying for the World Cup finals and bringing further glory to their fatherland. “As the team and its handlers bask in the glory of being the first African country to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, President Jonathan urges them to rededicate themselves to excelling on the global stage and reaching for heights never previously attained by the country at the World Cup finals. The President believes that with the enormous pool of footballing talents available to the country, the Super Eagles can, with more hard work, dedication, resilience and further honing of their skills and tactics, fulfil the national dream of being the first African nation to win the world cup” the statement said.
President Jonathan also assured the NFF and the team, of the fullest possible support of the federal government and all Nigerians in their quest to win even greater glory for Nigeria at the world cup finals in Brazil.
Theodore Orji, governor of Abia State, also congratulated the Eagles on their qualification. In a statement by Charles Ajunwa, his chief press secretary, Governor Orji who thanked the country’s senior national team for putting up a superlative performance, said they did all Nigerians proud with victory over the hard fighting Ethiopians. Governor Orji, who charged the handlers of the country’s national team to start early to prepare the players for the World Cup, said Nigeria has a formidable team that can win the coveted trophy for sports loving Nigerians.
“The senior national team’s patriotism and commitment to the Nigerian project has once again showed that our country is on the march to greatness. I implore all Nigerians irrespective of ethnicity or religion to imbibe this same spirit displayed by the Super Eagles to enable us make progress as a country destined for greatness,” he said.
Bolaji Abdulahi, minister of sports, also congratulated the Super Eagles for becoming the first African country to pick the World Cup ticket. “I am happy to be part of the process that has made this possible,” he said moments after the match. But the success notwithstanding, the minister said he was not surprised as the jinx of qualifying for the World Cup had long been broken 29 years ago. Abdulahi said he was happy that qualification this time was much easier than it was four years ago, when Nigeria had to also depend on the misfortune of other countries to get confirmation of World Cup ticket.
“Qualification is good, but what we will do after is more important. We now have ample time to plan and scale over previous heights.” To Abdulahi, getting to the semi finals of the World Cup should be an ambition for the Super Eagles, having featured in four of the past five World Cup editions. His argument was that at least three African countries had reached the quarter final stage before and Nigeria will need to set a new mark.
He also advised the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, to embark on aggressive marketing drive and master the art of managing success and building on its brands. “The more you win matches, the more expenditure you incur as you will keep paying winning bonuses. I understand that some of their sponsors may not be paying on time, but I expect them to be more aggressive in their drive to get them pay. They need to set up a committee to look into how they can market their brands and generate revenue outside government allocations. They should be able to put values on each of their brands.”
Nigeria will travel to Brazil with the expectations of its 165 million inhabitants and the hopes of a continent in need of world glory. It is joined by Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Ghana and Algeria, which have also booked their tickets to Brazil. The African representatives would know their opponents on December 6, when FIFA will group the qualified teams.