By Patrick Omorodion
*As Amodu says Argentina are beatable
The 2010 World Cup draws took place in Cape Town, South Africa, Friday, before a world live and television audience of close to 200 million people with Nigeria, for the third time in 15 years, facing Argentina in Group B.
After a colourful ceremony which started with a recorded message from South Africaâ€™s 91 year old former president, Nelson Mandela and a welcome by President Jacob Zuma and FIFA president, Joseph Sepp Blatter, the draw proper started with FIFA secretary general, Jerome Valcke conducting affairs.
Ethiopian legend, Haile Gebrselassie made the first pick from pot three and it turned out to be Nigeria but with Valcke saying that two African teams could not be in the same group, Nigeria had to automatically move to Group B where Argentina seeded in the group will play the opening match with the Super Eagles.
Moments after the draw, Super Eagles coach, Shaibu Amodu told Supersports that he and his wards will not pay any special focus on Argentina because other teams in the group, Greece and South Korea are equally strong.
â€œI donâ€™t want to focus on Argentina because other teams in the group are equally strong. We have to prepare well for all the teams and I think it will be nice to start well with Argentina,â€ Amodu said.
Continuing Amodu, who the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF has pledged total support for on the Eagles job told his interviewers that â€œIt is possible to beat Argentina, they are beatable but it depends on how we prepare.â€
Pressed to say how good his team is, Amodu quipped â€œI think the Eagles we are building now can come out of the group and possibly get to the quarter finals or semi finals.â€
This will be the third time in World Cup history that both countries will be meeting each other in the same group. In Nigeriaâ€™s debut appearance in 1994 in the United States, Argentina, parading the great Diego Maradona, beat Nigeria 2-1 but the Clemens Westerhof-tutored side still went ahead to qualify for the second round.
Again in 2002 in Korea/Japan after Amodu was shoved aside for Chief Adegboye Onigbinde, the Eagles comprising rooky players like Femi Opabunmi and Barthlomew Ogbechie, stretched the former world champions to breaking point before the much more experienced Argentines drew from their bag of football tricks to pip the Nigerian side 1-0.
After the 1994 loss in the USA, Nigeria were pitched again with Argentina in the final of the Atlanta â€˜96 Olympic Games football event where Nwankwo Kanu inspired his team mates to beat Argentina 3-2 for Africaâ€™s first Olympic gold in football.
Nine years after the Olympic loss, Argentina took their revenge at the U-20 level in the Netherlands when Lionel Messi, re-enacting the Maradona prowess singlehandedly tore the Flying Eagles defence to help his country to the FIFA U-20 Wrld Cup crown, winning 2-1.
Again in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics, Samson Siasia who was in-charge in 2005 in the Netherlands had the ill-luck of confronting the same Argentina team with Messi supported by Sergio Aguero, a son-in-law of Maradona in the final of the football event and lost 1-0 to pick the gold.
Recalling the 1994 loss, Super Eagles assistant coach, Daniel Amokachi who was part of the USAâ€™94 squad said after the draws yesterday that â€œwe lost 2-1 to Argentina, a defeat we caused for ourselvesâ€, but added that for the other group opponent, Greece who they equally met in 19994, â€œwe beat Greece 2-0 in 1994 but football has really changed in that country now.â€
Greece shocked the whole world in 2004 in Portugal when they beat stronger teams to emerge the European champions but in last yearâ€™s edition of the same championship, they were a shadow of themselves.
In the other pairings for the 2010 World Cup, host South Africa have a tough opening match with Mexico in Group A which also has Uruguay and France whose qualification is smeared in a Henry Thierry â€˜hand of Godâ€™ assist that gave them the ticket.
England that have been rebuilt by Italian coach, Fabio Capello are in Group C with USA, Algeria and Slovenia while Africaâ€™s first 2010 qualifier, Ghana are in Group D with Germany, Australia and Serbia. Group E has the Netherlands, Denmark, Japan and Cameroon.
The mot successful World Cup country, Brazil are grouped in G alongside North Korea, Cote dâ€™Ivoire and Portugal while current European champions, Spain will test their might against rising football country, Switzerland, Honduras and Chile.
Respected former South Africa president, Nelson Madiba Mandela said South Africa is â€œprivileged and humbledâ€ to be staging football’s greatest event, the Fifa World Cup in 2010.
According to him, â€œSport has the power to inspire and unite people. In Africa, soccer enjoys great popularity and has a particular place in the hearts of people, which is why it is so important that the Fifa World Cup will, for the first time ever, be hosted on the African continent in 2010.â€
“We feel privileged and humbled that South Africa has been given this singular honour of being the African host country. We must strive for excellence in our hosting of the World Cup, while at the same time, ensuring that we are going to leave a lasting benefit to all our people.
â€œThe people of Africa learnt the lesson of patience and endurance in their long struggle for freedom. May the reward brought by the FIFA World Cup prove that the long wait for its arrival on African soil has been worth it… Ke Nako! It’s time.â€
The groups tables are as follows
Group A – South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay and France
Group B – Argentina, Nigeria, Korea Republic and Greece
Group C – England, USA, Algeria and Slovenia
Group D – Germany, Australia, Serbia and Ghana
Group E – Netherlands, Denmark, Japan and Cameroon
Group F – Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia
Group G – Brazil, Korea DPR, Cote d’Ivoire and Portugal
Group H – Spain, Switzerland, Honduras and Chile
TheÂ Super Eagles of Nigeria will play Argentina in the opening match.