The Super Eagles are on a mission! An honourable and exciting one at that. A mission to put Nigeria back where it belongs as one of the top nations in the world, in the country of football, Brazil. The much-anticipated World Cup 2014 is at hand.
The Super Eagles’ last victory at the World Cup dates back to 16 years ago when we beat Bulgaria 1-0 to top the group in France 1998. A victory next week as we open our 2014 World Cup account against Iran could just be the momentum Nigeria desperately needs to be en route to glory.
This current Super Eagles team have a lot to be proud of. For starters they are defending African champions and qualified to the 2014 finals with relatively little stress.
There are 209 football-playing nations in the world and as of today the Super Eagles are one of the best 32, by virtue of their presence in Brazil.
For the first time in a long time Nigeria are going into the World Cup with the coach that qualified them to the tournament in Stephen Keshi, and that is a rare but commendable feat for mother Nigeria as they tow the “continuity for progress” line. However, all is not done and dusted and should the Super Eagles not take certain important measures now, and urgently, they could be travelling towards very painful results.
Group F hosts Argentina, Iran, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Super Eagles. Many have concluded that qualification to the knockout stage is not an issue worth deliberating, but rather if we will top the group or not.
If you are one of those, then please wake up from your day dreaming as the Super Eagles have to earn their qualification by sheer hard work and dedication.
“What do they need to do to qualify?” I heard you ask.
First and foremost, from all technical indications and the preparations I have seen most of the other teams in Group F do, the Super Eagles have to play with a very compact gameplan, most especially when not in possession.
Humility and feet on the ground
The greatest error would be to think that Iran is a pushover. A look at how they qualified, whom their Coach is (Carlos Queiroz of the Manchester United, Real Madrid, Portugal, South Africa fame) should warn even the least enlightened among us.
Bosnia and Herzegovina are the only debutants in the World Cup this time around. But remember that this is a nation carved out of the former Yugoslavia of great players and a national team well-respected worldwide, prior to division. Bosnia boasts of world class individual players who currently ply their trade in clubs better-rated than the ones played in by most of our Super Eagles players.
Meaning? We must go into the second game against Bosnia with an underdog attitude, with the aim to modestly come out as winners as opposed to erroneously looking down on them before the game.
If we do that, Bosnia might just look down at Nigeria after the final whistle.
Argentina are not invincible.
This may be the best Argentine team formation in over 12 years, but they are not unbeatable! There is the possibility to come out of this encounter with a positive result. However what positive means come match day depends on the above-analysed games, as it is the last group game for the Super Eagles and who knows, they might decide to rest “whiz kid” Lionel Messi.
Forget the past.
This is not the moment to continue with distractions about which players should have been in Brazil or not, or worry about results from friendly games which are meant to prepare the team to know where they stand etc. Any smart human being knows that you do not cry over spilt milk, but if the floor it is spilt on is not so dirty, you could just lick it up and make the best of an unfortunate situation.
The Super Eagles have to be united and play as a team. If one player thinks of his personal ego above the team, it could mean elimination.
From the above it is clear that everything we need to do or not do is mental. Why? This is because I honestly believe in the quality and capabilities of our Super Eagles players. If they play at their best, like they did on that memorable day when they took apart the multi-talented Ivory Coast team in South Africa in 2013, the sky could be the limit.
Sunday Ogorchukwu Oliseh is a former Nigerian footballer and coach, who in his active player career played as a midfielder. Feel free to follow him on Twitter : @sundayooliseh.. Article originally published on Sunday Oliseh’s Blog
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