Monday, June 16, 2014
Twenty years ago, Nigerians sat glued to their television sets, apprehensive and expectant, wondering what would be the outcome of the nation's first game in FIFA(Federation of International Football Association) world cup, USA 94. The Super Eagles surpassed expectations by pundits as they thrashed highly rated Bulgaria which had the likes of Hristo Stoichkov by three unreplied goals.
Today, Nigerians are expectant again. There is also a level of apprehension because the Super Eagles team have not been spectacular in their pre-world cup friendly games. The 1994 team which paraded the likes of Rashidi Yekini, Emmanuel Amuneke, Daniel Amuneke, Jay Jay Okocha, Uche Okechukwu and Finidi George were rated the fifth best team in the world this is as compared to the present Eagles who are rated 44th in the world according to FIFA rankings.
However, there are some similar scenarios between the 1994 Super Eagles and the present crop of Super Eagles. Both teams went to the world cup as African Champions having won the preceding African Cup of Nations. Also, the coaches in-charge stayed over two years taking charge of the team before the world cup. Clemens Westerhorf took over as Super Eagles Coach in 1990, four years to USA 94 FIFA world cup while Stephen Keshi has been in charge of the Super Eagles since 2012.
Nigerian Football authorities have a reputation for easily firing and hiring coaches. Bora Mulitinovic , Adegboye Onigbinde and Lars Largerback were hired to coach the Super Eagles to the France 98, Japan/Korea 2002 and South Africa 2010 FIFA world cups respectively a few months if not weeks before the world cup.
The die is cast as Nigeria faces Iran tonight. Will the Super Eagles win this game? The last game the Super Eagles won in the FIFA world cup was against Bulgaria in the 1998 world cup. With Argentina in Nigeria's group in a fourth world cup, this is the time to win Argentina, not because Super Eagles have the best talent but because of pride and the 'Naija spirit'