By Patricl Omorodion
The fate of Nigeria qualifying for the first World Cup on African soil which has been hanging precariously on a balance since after the needless draw against the Mambas of Mozambique in Maputo on will be known today.
Two matches will decide that. They are the must win match for the clay-footed Eagles against the Harambee Stars of Kenya at the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi and the Maputo cracker which the Tunisians must lose or at least draw against Mozambique.
Nigerians have been permutating the outcome of the Eagles matches. From the top executive to the little lad obsessed with street soccer, their prayer have been unanimous, that the Tunisians lose and Eagles win, so that Nigeriaâ€™s flag will be hoisted in South Africa among 31 others from the participating countries.
Only a few Nigerians have expressed their indifference on whether the Eagles qualify for 2010 or not. These lot say that it will be an injustice for Nigeria to qualify ahead of Tunisia who have shown more seriousness to qualify.
Majority, however, say that even though the Eagles performance have been wobbly, they should qualify instead of Tunisia, claiming that Nigeriaâ€™s football culture is stronger than that of the North Africans.
Even the host country through the South African Tourism express this sentiment, preferring Nigeria qualify as it will go a long way to boost their tourism. A promo is already going on to pick three Nigerian fans to South Africa for the World Cup.
The question, however is, can the Eagles take the bull by the horns, like the Mozambican coach, has told them to do, to go beat Kenya in Nairobi, because they are capable of beatingÂ Tunisia on home soil in Mapolo.
Despite calling up some new players, will Coach Shaibu Amodu, be able to overlook sentiments and pick the right players, committed and dedicated ones, to tackle the Kenyans at their backyard?
Again preparation for todayâ€™s game cannot be said to be satisfactory. Among the four teams, the Eagles had the least preparation, coming into camp only early this week while the others, constituted mainly by home-based players, have been training together for two weeks or thereabout.
BothÂ Coach Amodu and the Nigeria Football Federation did not consider the altitude problem the players are most likely to face, by traveling early to acclimatize. They were expected to fly into Nairobi a day to match day and probably unleash their bag of tricks on their host.
Only 90 minutes will determine whether that strategy was the right one as Nigerians would be celebrating the qualification for the 2010 World Cup or be sulking the miss of yet another one, most painfully the first on the African continent.