Tag Archives: World Cup

Can the SUPER EAGLES SOAR against ARGENTINA at the World Cup?

24 Jun

Two weeks ago, following the completion of Nigeria’s World Cup friendlies, we brought you the aptly titled Can the Super Eagles fly against Argentina at the World Cup?” where we assessed the Super Eagles’ World Cup chances, and we told Nigerians everywhere to KEEP CALM, following that string of unimpressive friendly performances. And calmness was certainly needed, after a goalless draw against Iran in the first game that had many a Super Eagles fan resigning the team to doom against the supposed might of Bosnia! In truth, fortune certainly favoured Nigeria in that match which could have easily ended 1-0 in Bosnia’s favour, if those two calls in the first half had gone differently – Dzeko’s wrongly ruled offside goal, and Emenike’s challenge on the Bosnian defender that led to Odemwingie’s goal, which we could not have had serious complaints if it had been called as a foul!

All that said, a win against Bosnia was always going to knock them out and put the Super Eagles in a prime position to qualify for the knockout rounds. Indeed, statisticians on various websites have given Nigeria some 85% probability of qualifying for the 2nd round ahead of Iran. Incidentally, Iran will also be seeking their first World Cup win in 16 years against the demoralised Bosnians, and only their second World Cup win EVER to sneak into the 2nd round for their first time ever, ahead of the Super Eagles. On paper, Iran should not beat the Bosnians, but stranger things have happened, and the manner in which they nearly held the mighty Argies to a goalless draw will give them all the belief they need to go and get the result they need against Bosnia!

As such, despite Nigeria’s seemingly high probability of making the Second Round for the first time since France ’98, our progression may well hinge on the Super Eagles making a little history of their own, and doing something that no other Nigerian team has succeeded in doing at the World Cup – Avoiding defeat against Argentina! Indeed, Nigeria has lost 3 out of 3 against our World Cup nemesis Argentina, and has not scored in 262 minutes of World Cup against the South Americans, since Samson Siasia’s 8th minute goal against them at USA ’94! That remains Nigeria’s only World Cup goal against them!

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In those matches Nigerians have always taken solace in the fact that Argentina’s margin of victory was only by one goal, but if that were to happen again, we could well see the drawing of lots to determine who goes through with them to the next round – if Nigeria loses and Iran wins by one-goal margins, with Iran scoring exactly one goal more than Nigeria (e.g. 0-1, 1-0 or 1-2, 2-1, etc) then lots will be drawn to determine which team will finish second in the group and face the unenviable task of meeting a French side that has already scored 8 goals in just 2 matches in Brazil! And Nigeria is no stranger to losing one-nil to the Argies…

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On the flip side, history beckons for Stephen Keshi if he can become the first Super Eagles manager to take even a point from Argentina at the World Cup. One would also presume that Nigeria is long overdue a result against La Albiceleste (The White and Sky Blue). They have not particularly lit up Brazil 2014 yet, with laboured victories against Bosnia and Iran, and it seems like they are lost for ideas outside the brilliance of Lionel Messi – if the Super Eagles can shackle him and prevent him from scoring (which thanks to the brilliance of Vincent “Enyeamagnet” they managed to do in 2010), then we have every chance of taking something from the game! Super Eagles captain Jospeh Yobo will become Nigeria’s first centenary player with his 100th cap if he suits up against Argentina, and he will be hoping that it is third time lucky, as he is the only surviving player from the teams that lost narrowly against them in both 2002 and 2010!

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Having secured qualification already, Argentina will not be going all out for the win against Nigeria. Could we perhaps see a shock result – Nigeria defeating Argentina at the World Cup? As with USA finally beating Ghana at the third attempt, it has to happen one day, and with Super Eagles in the ascendancy, and gaining in confidence after a good performance against Bosnia, Nigeria has never had a better chance to “smash and grab” against Argentina! To date, our only victory of note against Argentina was the historic 3-2 victory in the GOLD medal game at the Atlanta ’96 Olympics. It’s time to invoke the spirit of  that ‘Dream Team’ because something tells us that more than one goal will be needed to take victory tomorrow against Argentina!

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This could very well turn out to be an AWESOME World Cup for Africa, as there is a very real possibility that more than ONE African team will make the 2nd Round of the World Cup for the first time ever, strengthening the perennial argument for more than 5 African slots at the mundial. Apart from Nigeria, A draw for Algeria against Russia should be enough to see them through, and barring a disaster of ‘Kaitastrophic’ proportions against Greece (any Nigerian who saw the last World Cup should understand what that means!), Cote d’Ivoire should go through to the 2nd round for the 1st time in their history!


Can the Super Eagles fly against Argentina at the World Cup?!?

8 Jun

Now that the series of pre-World Cup friendlies for the Super Eagles are over, it’s time to answer the question on every Nigerians lips: How well can they do at the the Big Dance? The Super Eagles are taking less than flattering form into the World Cup starting on Thursday – after an encouraging 2-2 draw with Scotland and a lacklustre goalless draw with Greece, The Eagles wrapped up their pre-World Cup friendlies with an uninspiring 2-1 loss to USA, in a performance that is already sending some Super Eagles fans into panic, and forcing others to adjust their expectations of the team – can we even make it out of the group? Should the less than stellar pre-World Cup form be a source of worry?

Well, yes and no, but more no than yes…yes, it is true that there is a gulf in class between Nigeria’s starting eleven and some of the bench players – strength in depth is needed to go beyond the World Cup Quarter-Finals, if the team can even make it that far. It is also true that the squad continues to be hampered by injuries to 1st team players – both Ahmed Musa and Kenneth Omeruo sat out the USA game due to injury concerns, while 1st-choice left back Uwa Echiejile has been ruled out altogether after pulling up with a muscle injury against Greece.

The only consolation Nigeria fans will be able to take from the loss of Echiejile is the return of CHAN MVP, Ejike Uzoenyi, to the team. Despite not being a like-for-like swap (a left-sided attacking midfielder replacing a left back), if Uzoenyi could re-enact any of the form that saw him score 3 incredible goals at this year’s CHAN, then he could prove to be a super-sub that might be able to produce something out of nothing for Nigeria! It remains to be seen whether he will even get a chance, as it would seem he is currently below the likes of Moses, Musa and even Babatunde and Uchebo in the pecking order on the wings!

So why should we not be TOO worried about Nigeria’s less than ideal build up to Brazil? Well, first of all, it is important to note that goal of friendlies is not necessarily to win them – Coach Stephen Keshi would have been more concerned about making sure his players stay injury-free. Only the match against Greece gave us any insight into what Keshi’s starting eleven at the World Cup is going to be. The Scotland match was a last chance for the fringe players to impress, while the USA match will have helped Keshi answer any lingering questions he may have had – can Yobo still lead this team from the start of matches, or can Ameobi lead the line alone upfront? The answer to both those questions based on the USA game would likely be NO, so barring injury, expect Omeruo to return to the starting line-up against Iran, while Emenike’s lively cameo against USA showed that he is still Nigeria’s No. 1 forward!

What’s most important for Nigerians and the team right now is to KEEP CALM. Just like at the African Cup of Nations last year, the Eagles seem to play best when the least is expected of them, when their backs are against the wall. Let’s also not forget that we have had far worse World Cup preparations in the past – in 1998, after losing consecutive friendlies to Germany, Yugoslavia and Holland to a total aggregate score of 9-1, we went on to beat Spain and Bulgaria in our first two World Cup matches and top our group. It was only when the team became overconfident and were already looking forward to a possible quarter-final clash against Brazil, that they were unceremoniously thrashed by Denmark in the 2nd Round!

This time around, they will know that the first game against Iran is a must-win game, to have any chance of progression to the second round, and they will get that job done. Bosnia in contrast has had a very strong build-up, including friendly victories against Cote d’Ivoire and Mexico, so there is no chance that Keshi and his team will underestimate them – avoiding defeat in that game will be critical for our chances for 2nd round progression. Going into the 3rd game against Argentina without needing a result would be ideal, but a lot will depend on if Argentina still needs a result by then to progress – ideally they will not and rest some key players!

Sergio Aguero dazzling 4 Nigerian players at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.  Argentina won that game 1-0

Sergio Aguero dazzling 4 Nigerian players at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Argentina won that game 1-0

Nigeria has played Argentina in 3 of the 4 World Cups that the Super Eagles have appeared in, losing narrowly each time (2-1, to Claudio Cannigia goals at USA ’94, 1-0 to a Gabriel Batistuta header at Japan/Korea ’02, and 1-0 to a Gabriel Heinze header at South Africa 2010). Nigeria is well overdue a shock win against our old foes at the World Cup! So, can Nigeria beat the likes of Argentina and indeed the hosts Brazil, or is that just a pipe dream? Where will our support come from in Brazil? Here’s what Brazilian and Argentinian fans had to say about Nigeria’s chances, in Salvador just before World Cup Draw was made there in December – this video also features former Nigeria International Richard Owubokiri, who lives in Salvador – Enjoy!

If this is any indication of the reception that the Super Eagles should expect in Brazil, then we can count on some “home” support for the team even if there aren’t many Nigerians who can make the trip to Brazil to watch the matches lives – it’s just a pity that regardless of our progression, Nigeria will NOT play in the North-East of Brazil, particularly Salvador, where the links to Nigerian cuisine and culture and indeed the Yoruba language are incredibly apparent!

Lionel Messi darts past Osaze Odemwingie and Dickson Etuhu at the 2010 Word Cup -  who will come out on top on June 25th in Porto Alegre?

Lionel Messi darts past Osaze Odemwingie and Dickson Etuhu at the 2010 Word Cup –
who will come out on top on June 25th in Porto Alegre?

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