Nigeria will kick off the Qualifying Campaign for the 2018 World Cup in October. Algeria, Cameroon, and Zambia are the opponents. Only one team will qualify. Some sections of the Nigerian media and some players of the Super Eagles are already predicting the Eagles will qualify, but as Euro 2016 again reminded us, nothing is certain in football…
It’s not about population, Iceland is same size as Leicester. Yet the plucky Icelandic team knocked England out with relative ease. Nigeria is the most populous of the nations in the group, but that doesn’t make for the best team. Iceland proved that.
It’s not about ‘history’ Portugal had lost to France 18 times in 24 meetings. Nigeria has not lost to Zambia in six years, two wins and a draw is the record; the Eagles have four wins, both home and away, against Algeria in Nations Cup and World Cup qualifying matches; and have two wins plus a penalty loss against Cameroon. Good history, but this is a whole new game!
It’s not about noise, the British press ‘out wrote’ the Icelandic press. It’s a moot point that of the four sides the Nigerian press has the largest presence on the continent. And like the British press, the Nigerian media know how to “talk up” their team. Just as the Nigerian fans know “for sure” that their team will win every game, and demand they do! France had prepared the bus for the victory parade after Euro 2016. They never used it. Our noise will have little effect without adequate preparations.
It’s not about the big names, the Belgians, English and French teams has much bigger names than the teams that took them out. Nigerian players are in almost every league in Europe, and are household names on the continent. An unbiased scouting system will give the Eagles two solid players for every position. But names don’t win football matches: preparations, tactics and attitude do!
It’s not about the size or popularity of your league, the Premiership is known all over the world. The NFF and the LMC have been telling us the Nigeria Professional League is “the best in Africa” maybe it is, but that will not guarantee qualification even if those claims were true.
The Lesson? The World Cup Qualifiers will not be an easy ride. The NFF, the Players and the press must move beyond rhetoric, and ensure Nigeria’s flag flies in Russia.