Nigerian national team players and Nigeria football fans were in full celebratory mood following the four-point performance in the World Cup qualifying matches against Cameroon. All the Super Eagles need do, is secure a win or at least get a point against Zambia come October 7, and qualification is guaranteed. Of course, that would be after Zambia have been beaten by Algeria. That scenario would leave Nigeria with a clear six-point advantage in the group…then Zambia won in Constantine, and Zambia were suddenly just three points behind Nigeria. But the Zambia win is good for Nigeria, and these are reasons:
Read again; the win is good for Nigeria, nobody said it’s good for the Eagles. There is a difference. The Eagles were shown dancing the day away in a video that went viral after the game in Yaoundé. There is nothing wrong with that. They got four points off (dreaded) Cameroon and should celebrate. It’s just that the Cameroonians were not the threat; the Chipolopolo were the threats, and that win will sober up the Eagles, nothing has been done until that World Cup ticket is punched. The Zambian win is a wake-up call for the Eagles, and may have just saved Nigerians a heartache, because…
It takes the Eagles and their handlers back to the post-South Africa game mentality: the Fear of failure. The Zambia win means the coach and the team will respond. As will the NFF, who have already started preparations for the game anyway. The loss to South Africa scared them, the Zambia win has sent them a warning they will not ignore.
The victory also means Zambia will want to win. They smell a route to Russia and will go for it. If they sit back, a draw is good enough for Eagles; but they have to win, so they must attack, and as we have seen in these World Cup qualifiers, Eagles are deadly on the counter. Speedy counters served them well in Ndola and it will serve them well now. Zambia attacked in Ndola, they will also have to attack in Uyo.
Also note that 34 World Cup qualifying games without loss on the bounce is not a joke. The last time the Eagles lost a World Cup qualifying game was in June 2004, against Angola. The last World Cup loss at home is even further back; against Algeria. It takes a lot to string that record together, and Zambia will find out just how hard it is to defeat the Eagles on home soil in a World Cup qualifier.
Finally, if Zambia can win in Algeria, the Eagles will believe they can too, so whatever happens on October 7, there is still a chance. But it will not come to that; the Eagles will get the job done on home soil. Just because they are good enough to do it!
The Zambians may not know it yet, but they did Nigerians a huge favor with the win in Constantine!