By Jacob Ajom
Former Super Eagles number one goalkeeper, Peter Rufai has declared that the Nigerian national team would surprise the world in South Africa.
Speaking in a chat with Sports Vanguard at the National Institute for Sports, Lagos, yesterday, Rufai who manned Nigeriaâ€™s post at USA â€˜94 and France â€˜98 World Cups said that the Nigerian team would draw inspiration from her past outings at the global fiesta to surmount all opposition in South Africa.
Speaking on Eagles group opponents, Argentina, Greece and Korea, Rufai said although Argentina remains a big threat, â€œthey do not possess that fearsome squad like the one they paraded at USA â€˜94. Their quality is not as good, but I feel strongly that the Eagles can beat them.â€
He said that the Argentine team at the USA â€˜94 World Cup that had players like Diego Maradona, Carnigia, Batistuta, Ariel Otega amongst others would live to remember Nigeria.. â€œAlthough we lost to them, we gave them a good fight they wonâ€™t forget easily.â€.
He said Greece too was a good team but did not speak much on Korea.
He challenged the Nigeria Football Federation to provide chief coach Shaibu Amodu with all the necessary tools required to succeed, tasking the coaches to re-invent the Nigerian fighting spirit that is the hallmark of all Nigerian teams.
â€œThe fighting spirit is missing now in the present squad. Then we had the home boys who were giving us stiff competition in camp and the fear of losing your shirt was always haunting you. You could afford to faulter whenever you were fielded,â€ he recalled.
Dodomayana, as Rufai was called during his active days said the only way Amodu could bring back the fighting spiritÂ isÂ whenÂ heÂ assumes full control of the players.
â€œWhy do they perform better for their clubs than in national colours?â€ he asked, adding that â€œonce the NFF gives him the authority, and is able to exercise it over erring players, then sanity will return to the team. I believe they can do it,â€ he reiterated.
Rufai was optimistic that Nigerian football supporters would play a very big role in Eaglesâ€™ campaign in South Africa.
â€œOur qualification was a soothing balm to all Nigerians.
I tell you, the supporters, more that any one else, qualified Nigeria for South Africa 2010 because when the players turned and saw the singing and drumming, they went into the pitch with extra determination. And that saw us through in Kenya.â€