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Eagles: Beyond the AFCON qualifiers

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Eagles: Beyond the AFCON qualifiers

Nigeria is a big country in African football by any standard. The country has three Nations Cup titles in its kitty plus five U-17 World Cup trophies and Olympic Games gold medal. No African nation can joke with the country in football.

Only recently, Nigeria dropped from 48th to 49th in FIFA World Rankings.

The Super Eagles dropped one place in the rankings released just before the start of the World Cup and continued with just same trend in the last rankings released by the world football governing body on Thursday, August 16.

The Gernot Rohrs’ side is behind Tunisia (24), Senegal (24), Congo DR (37), Ghana (45), Morocco (46), Cameroon (47). Nigeria is Africa’s number 7.

Many believed this rating by FIFA is not a true reflection of the strength of a country, but to a large extent, it forms part of the assessment by the Confederation of Africa football and FIFA itself.

We recall that for the last World Cup, the top five African countries were seeded higher in the draw for the mundial. We believe the below average performance of Nigeria at the 2018 World Cup also made the country to drop in the last rankings. It is wrong to completely ignore the value of the rankings, especially because it is also part of the bragging rights of member-nations of FIFA all over the world.

We are, however, concerned that over the years, the Super Eagles have lost the fear factor they had on the continent. For close to two decades, South Africa’s football team, the Bafana Bafana, were in search of their first competitive win against the Eagles. Just last year, the South Africans came to Nigeria and defeated the Eagles 2-0 in a 2019 Africa Nations qualifier match. It was the very first match in the series in a group that also has Libya and Seychelles. Libya also defeated Seychelles 5-1 on match day one as Nigeria occupies the third position so far in the group.

On September 8, Nigeria will file out for a Match Day 2 fixture against Seychelles and, already, there is anxiety in the country as lovers of the game expect nothing but an outright win.

We make bold to say it is a bad development that there is anxiety over a little known country like Seychelles. The country is ranked 188th in the world and 51st in Africa. South Africa is 15th in Africa and Libya 21st in Africa.

Of the teams in Group D of the qualifiers, only Nigeria made it to the last mundial. It is however strange that every country is now a threat to Nigeria’s football team, which is regarded as one of the football powers on the continent.

Eagles Manager, Rohr, looks into the forthcoming match with caution. “We lost our first match to South Africa and we have to win this one to be back in the group as contenders for the two tickets. We have a young team and we must work hard to get the results needed in the next three games. We have to beat Seychelles in the next match, then beat Libya at home and away to get nine points,” he said.

Rohr spoke as a technical man, but we hereby charge him and the players to go all out and win all remaining matches, including that of Bafana Bafana away. If the players display the right attitude and with the motivation they have been enjoying from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in recent times, there should be no excuse.

We expected the manager to solidify the Eagles defence after the display in Russia, but it was a shock he brought in just one new face in the defence. The inclusion of Kelechi Nwakali in the middle is a big advantage that can guarantee creativity in the team. Now that Victor Moses has retired from the national team, Rohr should work towards the best formation that can boost the scoring ability of the team. Skipper, Mikel Obi, will be absent in Seychelles, the team needs another leader and the handlers must work on that beyond just having Ahmed Musa as the stand-in captain.

We call for focus for the forthcoming matches, especially because the country failed to qualify for the last two editions of AFCON. We also want the team to gradually get better for the country to occupy its right place at continental and global level in the game.

Seychelles and Libya are not the countries that should be threats to Nigeria in football. We hereby charge the Eagles to record big wins to bring back the fear factor especially on the continent. Seychelles are yet to play in the finals of the Nations Cup and should be well beaten home and away by the Super Eagles. Libya has appeared only three times in the Nations Cup and their best result was as runners up in 1982 which the country hosted.

NFF should support Eagles, not only to qualify, but to go all out and win the Nations Cup at Cameroon in June 2019.

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