By Olatunji Samuel

In the genesis of the journey of the Eagles to World Cup outings, that started in 1994, through which the USA ’94 team of Nigeria, still regarded as the best team Nigeria ever produced as a football loving nation, broke the Mexican standoff, of not getting the ticket to the most popular tournament in the world (Mundial). Bethinking of the earth shattering and earth scattering day when the then Green Eagles broke the jinx of the qualifying for the World up in USA 1994 for the first time since October 1949, when the then ‘Red devils’ played their first official game in the United Kingdom. The then ‘Green Eagles’ were at the top of the log with 7 points in group D of the World Cup qualifiers ahead of  their South Africans, Congolese’s and Libyans(annulled their result) opponents within October 10, 1992 and February 27, 1993. Their astonishing win over the Diables Rogues of Congo at the ancient Nnamdi Azikwe Stadium in Enugu booked their place among African nations like the Ivorian’s, Senegalese’s and the Desert Warriors of Algeria and among others plying the road to USA for the topflight tournament, 2-0 it ended thanks to the both goals of Edema Fuludu and the ex-Ajax and Calabar Rovers right winger Finidi George at the 14th and 84th minute of the regulated time of play respectively.
Annals will not forget the first African player to score in the USA’94, courtesy Nigerian all time goal scorer Rashidi Yekini’s unforgettable and clinical goal through Finidi George’s low cross at the right flank to Kwara-born hit man to tap into their Bulgarian’s net. Till date the national team who played in USA’94; Samson Siasia,Rashidi Yekini, Mutiu Adepoju, Sunday Oliseh,Peter Rufai, Stephen Keshi, Finidi George,Kanu Nwankwo, Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha of this world and among others managed by Clemens Westerof are still celebrated for their heroics deeds, even though they could not advance to the quarter final, by the time they met the Old Ladies (Italy), this deed skyrocketed Nigeria to the fifth place of FIFA ranking, highest ranking no other African team have reached till the incumbent. Can the present Eagles do more than that? Can they break the jinx exceeding to the quarter final and above as the CSKA Moscow forward promised Nigerians? Do we have what it takes to break the jinx?









The outing of the Nigeria national team since 1994
This above chart shows the performance Nigeria national team have been in a fluantuating state and have been underwhelming , which  the writer personally thinks ,is not worthy of  the country, as a football loving nation and a country of great repute in sports worldwide. The question hanging is that can the Nigeria advance past the round of 16 in the road to Russia?

  It is no more news that the Super Eagles of Nigeria were the first African to qualify for the forthcoming World Cup which is set to take place in Russia after playing gallantly with the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun, the Chipolopolo of Zambia, and the Desert Warriors of Algeria. To the belief  of many Nigerians, succeeding the group of death as tagged by them will be slimly feasible for Genort Rohr’s lad, as the fate behind the round leather game will have it, they started well and ended by winning and qualified with a match left, against the Chipolopolos, 1-0 it ended, thanks the second half and solitary goal scored by the young Arsenal midfielder and Nigeria international Alex Iwobi  coming on as a substitute, at the 73rd minute of the regulated time of play, assisted by the Nigeria’s most consistent right back, Shehu Abdullahi through a low cross  at the right flank towards the center  of the box 18 yard, where the youngster was,  and he struck it pass the Zambian goalkeeper. Nevertheless, as the Rohr’s lads are preparing for their sixth outing the tournament, and sequel to the remarks of the World Cup qualifiers by football loving Nigerians, there might be dubieties about the Eagles exceeding past the round of 16 or above, in consensus with what the ex-Cameroonian international and Arsenal player, Lauren said, Can we break the jinx at this year’s most popular tournament?

Sequel to the antecedents, let me take a relief from what an ex -Nigeria international, a time captain of the Super Eagles and most capped player in the national team, Joseph Yobo said in his message as the national team prepares for their sixth outing in the Mundial, he said and I quote “You don’t go to the World Cup and be dreaming of playing in the final when you are not done with what you have right before your first game in the group stages, if the Eagles can win the first game. The confidence and the quality will build and Nigerians will see the quality in them as the competition progresses.”  In words of the former Everton and Fernabache centre back, he advised the national team to conquer one match at a time, as they will be preparing to face the likes of Croatia, Argentina and Iceland which seems to the fans, a tough battle to fight, but in the expense of hard work and determination, Eagles can advance through them all. Nevertheless, we need to mark out some setbacks and weaknesses hovering around the camp of the Eagles, and to tell Nigerians the bitter truth without settling and proffering lasting way outs to these weaknesses, the national team might not fulfil the dreams which they having dreaming since the inception of the qualifiers, to this year’s tournament. One of the challenges faced by the national team which was every evident in the World cup qualifiers is the problem of organization, the composure and good team work, that is very present in the national team, I will implore  the technical crew of the national team in which is headed by Genort Rohr to address this issue properly and  proffer a lasting solution to it, without these, even though they pick the best that could do the job of breaking the jinx in this feat, we might be underwhelming, so from the defense line to the final third, we should be organized. Nigeria football loving fans said that in the camp of the Super Eagles, there is no star like Messis, Ronaldo,Neymar and co, but truth to be told, Nigeria can advance past the round of 16 and above if they are composed and organized with proper and vibrant team work.

  Furthermore, the most and salient problem the three time African champions are encountering is the problem of choice which have been occurring time immemorial, and that have been the headaches of the incumbent coaches and the past ones it has occurred in our past international outing , the problem of choice is very challenging even in other national teams worldwide. This great problem needs to be attended to very well to produce an efficacious result, when it comes to the choice of player going to the competition a coach must be biased and sentimental, a good tactician must choose because is a foreign based or home based player. I humbly advise the technical crew of the national team to choose wisely the players who are going to represent this country come next month. Many fans of the Super Eagles have lost hope on the national team exceeding the round of 16 based on the players they saw going the World Cup. I will again use this medium to appeal to Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the technical crew to go back to the drawing board and look at this great problem critically, in the country of over 150 million Nigerians and who are also football loving fans we should surely find a best 23 man squad to do the job. So we should able to choose the players who are very consistent in their various leagues both local and foreign and we should be able to choose players amidst of injury worries and players too must be very careful not to be injured before the competition starts. By doing this, it will give many Nigerian fans solace and give their unflinching support, despite the fact that we don’t have many well-known stars in our squad, but we have the teamwork and good communication of players who are very hungry and in high spirit to do their very best in the forthcoming tournament. Now that the gaffer have released a  good 30 man squad which must be reduced to 23 man squad, the technical crew must be very careful to choose the  good and injury free players that will represent us in Moscow in this year’s Mundial.

Also, we must able to choose the hit men that will be firing from all cylinders in the front of goals, we should be able to choose the players that are very clinical in the front of goals. Between 1994 and 2014, the national teams have been able to score a total  of 19 goals in the World Cup’s outing, with Daniel Amokachi(1994),Emmanuel Amunike (1994),Kalu Uche(2010) and the former Leicester City forward Ahmed Musa(2014) all leaders on  the table with 2 goals in their names respectively. We must be able to do more than that in this year’s big tournament.

   Moreover, the mother association must surly play her own parts in the road to Russia, they must able to provide the necessary logistics for the forthcoming tournament. They must leave no stone unturned, the President  should be able put the round peg on a round hole and let all thing work as expected and efficaciously. Take a relief from the words of the President of the association, Amaju Pinnick, he said and I quote “We are determined to treat all issues around our participation at the FIFA World Cup in Russia, one after the other, and at the end have a proper and duly –signed agreement that will put everyone’s mind at peace,” . I humbly adjure the leaders of the association that their full hands must be on deck concerning the successful outing of the national team plying the road to Russia. They must ensure that incentives and other bonuses must be duly paid in order to give them a boost for the forthcoming tournament. The president of the also association should be able be the man of his words
In a conclusion I will make, to a saying ‘ it pays to be a fan and not a fanatic’, a true fan must able to give an implacable support  for his/her country come what may, no matter what the circumstances surrounding the situations. We should remember that this is a round leather game, a game of unity of all diversities, so we should not let our patriotic support to turn to chaos and conflicts or brawls that can drag the repute of this country to the mud. A true fan must be peace loving, not an enemy of progress, a true fan watches the round leather for the fun and support the country of his and hers, that should be the watchword of every Nigerian supporters even the writer inclusive. Success in Russia should start with each player treating the others with respect and admiration. I tell you if all these can be turned into reality, sky is just our beginning!

Wishing the Eagles a fruitful outing in Russia.


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