World Cup: Despair Giving Way To Hope? | Independent Newspapers Limited
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World Cup: Despair Giving Way To Hope?

dream team
Posted: Sep 17, 2016 at 4:20 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Steve Oma-Ofozor


LAGOS – There is despair in the country over the possibility of Super Eagles qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. This despair is boosted by the team’s failure to qualify for the 2015 and 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.

If Nigeria cannot qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations back to back, what guarantee that she will qualify for the World Cup, many reasoned.

The World Cup qualifying draw that pitied Nigeria against African powerhouses in football – Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia-seems to be the last straw to boost this despair as Nigerians wrote off the country.

But the despair is beginning to give way to hope with the performances of some Nigerian players for their clubs in Europe. This hope is also reinforced by the Super Eagles performance under German coach, Gernot Rohr. In his first match, Eagles beat Taifa Stars of Tanzania 1-0, completely dominating the match.

These players have continued to register their names on the scores sheet since the kick off of the leagues in Europe. The few, who play both UEFA and UEROPA football, have equally done well.

Kelechi Iheanacho, though not a first team starter with Manchester City because Kun Aguero, he has proved to be a quality striker any time he is introduced. Starting against Manchester United because of Aguero’s ban, he scored the winning goal in the 2-1 win, while he scored his side fourth goal in their UEFA Champions League match on Wednesday.

Mikel Obi though has not featured for Chelsea this season because of his Rio Olympics involvement, his performance in Rio and in the Tanzania match has proven that this is a new Mikel on the block.

Victor Moses has secured Chelsea’s first team shirt this season and has not disappointed. Odion Ighalo started Watford’s fight back against West ham last Saturday in the English Premier League. Ahmed Musa at Leicester City has been a regular feature in the season including their UEFA Champions League campaign. Turkey-based Musa Mohammed who made his Eagles debut against Tanzania and Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme have by their performance replaced despair with hope.

Brown Ideye whose stay in the team in recent times has been off and on also was on target for his club, Olympiacus of Greece, with a hat trick recently, ditto Alex Iwobi for Arsenal.

Aminu Umar scored his fourth Europa League goal of the season for Osmanlispor, who defeated Steaua Bucuresti 2-0 in a Group L clash on Thursday. The 22-year-old sealed his side’s win ten minutes after Cheick Diabate had opened scoring for the hosts from the spot. It was his sixth game in the competition for the Turkish outfit since making his debut against Zimbru in July. His compatriot, Raheem Lawal, played the entire game. It was Lawal’s sixth appearance so far.

Elderson Echiejile made his Europa League debut for Standard Liege in Thursday’s 1-1 draw at home to Spanish side Celta Vigo.It was Echiejile’s 16th appearance in the competition.

At the San Siro Stadium, Nigerian pair of John Ogu and Anthony Nwakaeme both starred for Hapeol Beer Sheva who shocked Italian side Inter Milan 2-0. Ogu was making his eighth start in the competition while the game marked a third appearance for Nwakaeme.

In Portugal, Super Eagles winger Moses Simon made his seventh appearance for Gent as they drew 1-1 against SC Braga in Thurday’s UEFA Europa League.Moses scored his third of the championship.

The Nigerian international was also on target at the weekend in Gent’s 3-0 win over KSC Lokeren last Sunday.

This development is heartwarming giving the fact that the Eagles need a potent attack as they prepare for the October game against Zambia which should be a must win to put Nigeria in good stead.

Super Eagles Media Officer, Toyin Ibitoye, commenting on the Eagles buildup recently on a television programme, said that it was good to have Nigerian players in Europe and other parts of the world doing well.

“The performance of Eagles players in Europe is something everyone should be happy about, because it gives us the confidence that Nigeria can qualify for the World Cup.

“The likes of Kelechi, Ighalo, Iwobi are all doing well. Most importantly, these players are in the attack; at the end of the day the technical crew has quality options to make during matches,” he explained.

Commenting further he said, “One good thing that has happened to Eagles recently is that Yusuf has laid a good foundation and Rohr is continuing from where he stopped.

“In other words, there is continuity; Rohr did not start with a fresh squad, it is the same crop of players whom by all standard have now formed some understanding and that is the way to go,” he concluded.

In this regard, other schools of thoughts are now saying that the most important issue for coach Rohr is managing the progress of the players.

Christian Chukwu, former Super Eagles handler believes coach Rohr should keep constant communication with the players as he should also advise them to avoid complacency.

“The best way Rohr can manage the form of these players is for him to be in touch with them always, either physically of via phone calls, encouraging them and especially to ensure that they avoid complacency.

“He should let them they are going to play a team that is equally prepared to go to the World Cup too; there is no more big or small team anymore,” he said.

Godwin Izilein, former Super Falcons handler said, “Coach Rohr must ensure there is no distraction among these players, because their role is very important for the success of the team.

“When the attack of any team is very sharp the coach has little of no much work to do than to encourage the boys to be focused.

For the players Izilein said, “In as much as we are all happy some of these players current form is encouraging, they must remain consistent and playing regularly in their clubs; that also should be the prayer of the coach too, because I can see Nigeria qualifying for the World Cup.”

But FIFA Accredited players’ Agent, Chris Eseka, said that he will be surprised if Super Eagles qualify for the World Cup. “All these players are not new. They were the ones that failed to qualify for the Nations Cup.

“My worry is not about the players. Their form gives hope, but do we have the federation that is capable of managing this hope? Look at the Rio Olympics achievement. Some of the players have been integrated already into the Super Eagles. Such gives hope.

“Anytime we assemble these players, we see hope, but this hope is dashed at the end of the day.

“Somebody has to manage this hope. Administratively, our policy decisions, choices can’t actulise this hope. We just can’t manage what we have. That is the difference between Nigeria and other countries. Cameroon and Algeria don’t have better players, but they are better administratively. And this is why they are rated on paper as teams that will qualify from the group. I don’t see Algeria or Camerron winning the group if we put our acts together,” he said.