Cyril C. NwokejiTuesday, May 27, 2014




he World cup is around the corner and as usual millions of soccer-loving Nigerians are eagerly awaiting the start of the competition not only to see the many fine soccer -playing teams, but particularly to monitor closely the performance of our own very dear Super Eagles; whom yours sincerely, considers to be the pride of Africa, considering the exploits of this great team in African and world soccer, more especially, in the last fourty years!

The Super Eagles, are more than a soccer team; it's the Nigerian people's movement! When yours sincerely came to Europe in the early nineties, whenever and whereever I introduced my self as a Nigerian; the instant reaction that came was: "Land of football." This made me feel very proud and good in my skin; I walked taller than ever! The Super Eagles, needless saying, is the single biggest and best means of public relations for our dear country Nigeria. It is till date our biggest, brightest and best brand product! It is till date the singular best vehicle of national unity for Nigerians; more especially at this difficult time in our nation's history .Is it thus surprising that millions of soccer- loving and even non-soccer loving Nigerians, in Nigeria and in the diaspora would either be in Brazil cheering every move of the Super Eagles, or would be clusterd around their television sets, even in the dead of the night ,watching every kick of the ball by this great team ? Needless saying that the Super Eagles ,are at this point in time in our nation's history, Nigeria's biggest asset! This is the more reason the 2014 edition of the world cup, would, in my considerd opinion be the greatest ever watched sporting event by Nigerians. I am certain, God willing, the Super Eagles would not fail Nigerians !

Apart from sentimental reasons, what makes the Super Eagles and indeed Nigerian national soccer teams tick ?

There are numerous reasons, but chiefly among them, are our performances against the best teams in the world, in the last fourty years. Needless saying that a Nigerian national soccer team, is the only African team, that has the: charisma, alacrity, audacity and self confidence, to take on the best teams in the world ,and on a good day, can defeat or at the very worst hold it's own against these teams. A number of examples ,will butress my point :

The number 1 ranked team in the world Spain, was defeated 3-2, by the Super Eagles, at the 1998 world cup competition. In a match nobody gave the Super Eagles a chance of success ,considering our woeful performances at the tune -up matches leading up to the world cup competition .The highlight of that match, was the fourty meter carpeter of a third and final goal, scored by Sunday Oliseh; aptly described as the "Rocket of Amsterdam," by a Dutch commentator. Sunday Oliseh, at that time played for Ajax football club of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands ;

The number 2 ranked team in the world Germany, was defeated 2-0 ,in the final match of the maiden edition of the FIFA under-17 world cup competition, in the people's republic of China, by Nigeria's under-17 national team:" the world golden Eaglets," in 1985. The goals were scored by: Jonathan Akpoborie and Victor Igbinoba;

The number 3 ranked team Portugal, was held to a tantalising goalless draw, in a friendly match by the "Flying Eagles," in their preparation for the 2011 FIFA under -20 world cupcompetition .

The number 4 ranked team Brazil, was defeated 4-3, in the semi-finals of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games, soccer competition. It was a hard fought victory, for the Nigerian under-23 side, as they came from a 3-1 goals deficit after the first fourty -five minutes of play, to win 4-3, with that memorable extra time " golden goal ," by Nwankwo Kanu ;

The number 5 ranked team Colombia, narrowly defeated the Super Eagles, 1-0, in a friendly match, in Bogota, Colombia,in 2008; with what looked like a last minute off side goal. One remembers how fiercely Sanni Keita of Nigeria protested that goal and the concomittant yellow card he got from the refree ;

The number 6 ranked team Uruguay, narrowly defeated a largely experimental Super Eagles team, 2-1, at the FIFA confederations ' cup competition, last year in Brazil ;

The number 7 ranked team Argentina, was defeated 3-2, at the finals of the 1996 Olympic games, soccer event, by Nigeria ;

The number 8 ranked Zwitserland, was defeared 1-0, in a friendly match by the Super Eagles, in 2007. Taiye Taiwo's cracker settled matters for Nigeria ;

The number 9 ranked Italy ,held the Super Eagles of Nigeria to a 2-2 draw, in a friendly match, last year in London, England ;

The number 10 ranked team, Greece, was defeated 2-0, by the Super Eagles, at the 1994 FIFA world cup competition in the United States of America ;

The number 11 ranked team England played out a goalless draw, with a largely experimental Super Eagles, at the 2002 FIFA world cup competition, in Japan and South -Korea ;

The number 12 ranked Belgium, was defeated 4-1, by Nigeria's 2008 Olympic team, in the semi-finals of that event ;

The number 14 ranked United states of America, was defeated 2-1, at the semi-final stage of the 1989, FIFA under-20 world cup event in Saudi-Arabia ;

The number 15 ranked Holland, played a goalless draw with Nigeria's under -20 side at the FIFA under -20 tournament, in 1983, in Mexico. Humphrey Edobor, missed a seater that could have given Nigeria victory in that match .

The above mentioned facts, prove the success of the Super Eagles and indeed Nigeria's other national teams, against major opposition in world soccer.

What do Nigerians expect of the Super Eagles, at this edition of the world cup competition ?

Nigerians expect quite a lot; at least an improvement on our best second round placing so far ,and if possible more! The Super Eagles, thus, have a very tall order to go to Brazil and excel. They should be motivated by the good will of their millions of teeming supporters in Nigeria and around the globe. They should also be motivated by the huge cash rewards that would certainly go with their expected success, in Brazil .The NFF have already bagged 8million US Dollars, for the Super Eagles qualification for Brazil 2014. The NFF ,would bag 9million US Dollars ,should the Super Eagles get to the second round of world cup competition; they would get 14 million US Dollars, should the team get to the quarter -finals; 20 million US Dollars in the event of a fourth place finishing; 22 million US Dollars ,in the case of a third place finishing; 25 million USDollars, in a lost final appearance and 35million US Dollars ,in the event of victory! Thus, there would be lots of dollars to go for! One hopes that after the likely successfull world cup competition, the NFF would no longer complain of being in" financial dire straits ." The NFF should have no reasons to slash players' allowances; they should rather increase it; certainly for the Super Eagles, during the world cup competition, in Brazil! The beest that lays the golden eggs ,should be adequately rewarded. On coming home hopefully after a successfull world cup appearance, the Super Eagles, the technical crew and their officials ,would no doubt be handsomely rewarded by our soccer-loving President Jonathan and other soccer -loving Nigerians. Wow, with a successfull world cup competition behind them, the Super Eagles, would be 'in for it !'

What makes the present Super Eagles tick ? Why do we have such huge expectations in them?

Apart from reasons of history, this present team of the Super Eagles, have done very well in the last two and a half years, since Coach Stephen Keshi started the process of building them into the team of our dreams. They have indeed surpassed our collective expectations. Apart from the element of good luck, there is something that makes this team tick:

This team has two world class goalkeepers : Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide.

The team has young, highly talented and very mobile defenders = modern soccer defenders ; that over the last eighteen months have developed to one rock solid unit: from the gentlemanly, but highly tactically intelligent Efe Ambrose, to the rugged and recalcitrant Elderson Echiejile, to the CEO of defence:" Field Marshall" Kenneth " Nesta" Omeruo, to his highly admired deputy: the highly flexible ,but rugged Godfrey Obo "fantastic" abona.

The Super Eagles have the best mid-field quartet, in Africa: from the CEO, the highly eruditious playing Mikel Obi, to the ever fighting, ever struggling Ogenyi Onazi, to the highly creative Victor Moses and of course the highly skillfull, lustrefull- playing Joel "onye ball" Obi. There are also the highly effective, business like Sunday Mbah; the block-busting Nosa Igiebor; the smooth-playing Ramon Azeez, the highly mobile Reuben Gabriel and of course the skillfull, sleeky Nnamdi Oduamadi, to spare.

The Super Eagles have a razor-sharp attack, the best in Africa, that comprises: the bulldozing, but still skillfull Emmanuel Emenike; the highly mature and highly experienced Shola Ameobi; the highly speedy, daring and youthfully enthusiastic Ahmed Musa; the fighter, fighting, struggling Obinna Victor Nsofor; the fantastic, tantalising and sensatinalising Osaze Odenwingie; the renaissant Ejike Uzoenyi; the gangling ,dangling Michael "the new kanu" Uchebo and of course the highly predacious Uche Nwofor - folks remember his goal against South -Africa - the memorable back hill goal !

Coach Stephen Keshi, has so much talent in attack that he can afford to leave behind players of the calibre of: Ike Uche, who scored 13 goals this season in La liga; Victor Anichebe; Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi and Brown Ideye .

The Super Eagles are no doubt a rock solid unit, ready to take the soccer world by storm ,all things being equal: "Anyi bu nkwa."

It's our fervent hope and expectations and prayers that the Super Eagles, would undergo successfully the last phase of preparations for the World cup competition, in Braziland give us a scintillating performance at the world cup tournament, and thus satisfy our hearts' desires -"Iseeeeeeeh !!!!!"