Cyril C. NwokejiThursday, March 17, 2016




he Super Eagles of Nigeria, took on the "Pharaohs" of Egypt, in the final round robin series, to determine the only African representative to the 1978 World Cup competition in Argentina. The Super Eagles qualified for the final elimination series together with Tunisia and Egypt. The three teams were to meet each other, in a home and away, round-robin series, to determine Africa's only representative, to the 1978 World cup competition.

The Super Eagles on their way to qualification for the final elimination series, dispatched of countries like : Sierra -Leone and Ivory Coast. It was a highly talented Super Eagles team, that exhibited a highly physical, power-playing, 4-3-3 soccer formation, under the coaching guidance of Coach Tiko, the late Serbian Coach of blessed memory.

The Super Eagles, in the lead-up to this encounter, had on the 25th of September, 1977, played a hope-giving goalless draw against Tunisia, in Tunis, in the opening match of the round-robin series. Thus expectations were high on the part of soccer-loving Nigerians, who expected nothing less than an outright victory, in the encounter against the Egyptians, in Lagos.

On match day, the 8th of October, 1977, the National stadium, was packed to the fullest; not less than sixty thousand Super Eagles fans, thronged the arena, to watch their dearly beloved team take on the Egyptians. It was a bright sunny day; yours sincerely a then form two student of St. Gregory's college, Lagos, like the rest of Nigerians, watched, hoped and prayed for Super Eagles' success.

The following players lined up for Nigeria:

Goalkeeper Emmaniel Okala, was in goal. The defence line consisted of : Ahmed Annas, at right back; he replaced the first choice right back : Patrick Ekeji, who went back to University of Nsukka, for his sessional exams; at left back was Samuel Ojebode; Skipper Christian "Chairman " Chukwu, was at centre-half back; and Godwin Odiye, alias Mr. " No way," was at left-half back. The three-man mid-field consisted of : Mudashiru Babatunde Lawal, alias "Baba Shiru," at right- half back; Aloysius Atuegbu, alias " Atuegbe," or " the block-buster," was the right- sided offensive mid-fielder; Kelechi Emeteole, alias "Caterpilla," was the left-sided offensive mid-fielder; he replaced Godwin Iwelumo, who played in that position, in the earlier rounds of the World cup qualifying series. The offensive weelde consisted of : Segun "Mathematical " Odegbami, the right winger; Adokiye Amesimaka, alias the " Chief Justice," the left winger; the central striker, was new centre-forward prodigy : Johnny Nwadioha; he replaced the illustrious striker : Thompson Usiyen, who only a few months earlier, left for the United States of America, in search of the proverbial golden fleece.

Nigeria took maximal advantage of the elements, by having the match start at 3pm. The Super Eagles went on the offensive, from the blast of the whistle, in their direct, power-playing 4-3-3 formation, anchored on fast wing play. The very first incursion by Segun Odegbami, was stopped by the Egypytian left -back, who brutally brought down Segun Odegbami. The then NTA commentator : Mr. Dele Adetiba, expressed the hope that this wouldn't be a sign of things to come from the Egyptians. Indeed the Egyptians, were determined to do battle with Super Eagles, even on home soil, and in the face of the 'hostile' elements. The Nigerians tried as much as they could, in the opening stanza, but found the Egyptian defence, impregnable! The wingers: Segun Odegbami and Adokiye Amesimaka, the lynch pin of the Super Eagles attack, were essentially kept under lock and key, for the most part of the first half. Apparently, not satisfied with the productivity of the attackers, Skipper Christian Chukwu, personally took charge of proceedings, like the true skipper and leader of the team, that he was, and started his overlapping runs, into the Egyptian territory. It must be mentioned that Coach Tiko, in his tactical organisation, encouraged Skipper Chukwu, to overlap periodically, by so doing, he apparently, copied the style of play of the legendary German Skipper : Frans Beckenbaeur, who as centre-half back, overlapped frequently, to join and help the attack.

In one of Skipper Chukwu's overlapping runs, he moved down the Nigerian right flank, deep into the Egyptian territory; at a time those of us watching, thought he would at most earn a corner kick for Nigeria, the irrepressible skipper, uncharacteristically, scored from the extreme right flank of the Super Eagles attack. It was a goal scored from an impossible angle!!!! Nigerians were relieved, at this lead taken by Nigeria, more especially in the face of the tough defensive organisation, put up by Egypt.

The apparently ecstatic Super Eagles players, apparently, temporarily, forgot their defensive organisation, and nearly paid a big price for it! In a counter attack, the Egyptian Skipper : Hassan Shehata, who as coach, won three consequetive Nations' cup tournaments for Egypt, took on and took out Skipper Christian Chukwu, at the right side of the Nigerian defense, with a deft dribbling touch, before tapping the ball past the onrushing and badly exposed Goalkeeper Emma Okala, for what would have been the equaliser, but for the timely intervention of Godwin Odiye, who stopped the goal bound ball, on the line!

The first half ended, with scores at : Nigeria 1 Egypt 0.

The second half, started with the now rejuvenated characteristic Super Eagles offensive wing play, being put to maximal use. The Super Eagles wingers, had woken up from their slumber, and had started hitting the Egyptian defence hard on all fronts. The Super Eagles had started to fly, and in one of his mesmerising moves, Adokiye Amesimaka, utilising his trade mark body swerves, took out the Egyptian right-back, before centering a high lob into the Egyptian eighteen, which was beautifully connected with a diving header, by Segun Odegbami, for Nigeria's second goal! Nigerians rejoiced!!!!

The Super Eagles, were not yet done, and pinned the Egyptians to their own half of the field, with their direct, power-playing, wing- anchored, offensive salvos. Segun Odegbami, in yet another offensive salvo, this time, in a solo effort, down the Nigerian right flank, deep into the Egyptian territory, single -handedly and successfully, took on the Egyptian defenders; and in the process scored the third goal from yet another impossible angle - from the extreme end of the Super Eagles right side of attack, very close to the corner flank! It was a beautiful goal which in the words of the then NTA commentator : Mr. Dele Adetiba, was a goal for the "archives; " a goal which in his words, " Segun Odegbami, would be proud of, any day! " Indeed, it was a beautiful goal, characteristic of a classy player like Segun Odegbami!

The Super Eagles were not yet done, as the then centre-forward prodigy : Johnny Nwadioha, scored the fourth goal, off a right wing cross.

The Super Eagles defeated the Egyptians 4-0, on that day, and Nigerians were highly ecstatic, as they danced openly in the streets!

The return leg in Cairo, two weeks later, was less than pleasant, but is certainly not the subject of this article.

In conclusion, the aim of this write up, is to motivate the Super Eagles of Nigeria, as they prepare for the must-win encounters against the "Pharaohs" of Egypt, in Kaduna, and in Alexandria, Egypt. The Super Eagles, have beaten the Egyptians before, and can do it again! The unfortunate events of the recent past, in the affairs of the Super Eagles, notwithstanding, yours sincerely, believes in the successful prosecution of the double header against Egypt. Nigerians, have a way of bouncing back from the brink, to achieve great things; exploiting what one terms the : "Nigerian fighting spirit," or the "Nigerian spirit."

Yours sincerely believes in the Super Eagles!