Monday, April 15, 2024

Hurdles before Super Eagles

The third and final round of the Africa zone of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers have come and gone but reactions have trailed the group pairings.
Nigeria is in Group B with Zambia, Cameroon and Algeria in what many have described as the ‘Group of death’.
In the last four decades, the Super Eagles have, at one point or the other, been in the same group with all the three teams in the group, a fact which has added more spice to the mix.
After appearing at the last two World Cups (2010 and 2014) the Super Eagles will hope to make it a third successive World Cup appearance but have to find a way to navigate past its Group B rivals.
Taking a closer look at Nigeria’s chances of making it past the group level, some sports analysts have suggested what steps to be taken to realise her dream.
Iwedi ‘Nze’ Ojinmah, speaking on Eagles ‘chances, observed that Nigeria had been put in a very tough draw to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. “It’s as if the football gods went to each part of Africa – north, south and east and picked the toughest team for Eagles to face.
“For starters, Nigeria will be confronting two teams that were with her at the World Cup in Brazil. Cameroon has bounced back to form as she has got her groove back, while Algeria is solid. Algeria is ranked 1st on the continent and Cameroon 10th,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, if there is one team that has always matched the West Africans in terms of physicality and speed from Southern Africa, it has been Zambia. “Nigeria has played Zambia 16 times, beating them six times, drawing five and losing five times and that to me is pretty close and less successful than what they accomplished when they faced the Fennec Foxes or the Lions.
‘‘Head to head, Nigeria should not fear Algeria as the Eagles have dominated the North Africans – but that is on paper. In that scenario, Eagles have faced the North Africans 17 times, beating them eight times, drawing three and losing six. To make matters worse for the Algerians, the last seven games have been dominated by the Eagles, who won six, allowed a solitary draw and no defeats,” he said.
Nigeria’s epic encounters against the Indomitable Lions need no hype because they are an open secret with the central Africans beating Nigeria in almost every meaningful game. “Nevertheless, head to head, Nigerians have beaten their neighbours 10 times out of the 20 played and lost just four times and drawing six.
“Having said that, this means that while the people in the Glass House must be searching for a permanent coach taking on a new sense of urgency, Nigeria’s opponents based on the numbers provided must break out the worry and rosary beads as well.
“However, on paper and based on form one must admit that Nigeria’s chances of playing in Russia look slim and minuscule.

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