By Patrick Omorodion
A miracle akin to that wrouth by coach Tunde Disuâ€™s Flying Eagles at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Saudi Arabia is what coach Daniel Amokachi and his wards will try to achieve this afternoon as they line out to overturn a 2-0 deficit suffered in the hands of their Nigerien counterparts in Niamey a fortnight ago.
It is the second leg of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifying series and the venue is the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano, a venue that reminds fans of the failure of the â€˜authenticâ€™ Super Eagles to beat Angola and qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
There are palpable fears that, like it happened in the maiden edition in 2009 when the second string Eagles under Okey Emordi were eliminated by Ghana, the present squad handled by Amokachi are in danger of missing out of the competition, to confirm the decline of the game especially since the Sani Lulu-led Board came on stage.
Therefore to nip the imminent embarrassment in the bud, the Nigeria Football Association, NFA has beefed up both the team and the technical crew to the hilt with James Peters, himself a former national team coach and Eagles Technical Adviser, Lars Lagerback in tow to offer tips.
Like a confused body groping in the dark, invitation has also been extended to the leading scorer in the Nigerian elite league, Ahmed Musa, earlier left out of the team inexplicably, to add bite to the attack which was blunt in the Niamey battle and get the needed goals, at least three and not conceding any, to qualify.
Already two players who were part of the awful outing in the first leg, ThankGod Ike ad Chibuzor Okoronkwo have assured that they will not leave any stone unturned in their quest for qualification because Nigerians would look out to see what they can do, especially now that the call to include some home-based players in the mainstream Super Eagles has hit high decibel.
â€œIt will be a shame for us if we fail to qualify but we are determined to make sure we donâ€™t miss out. We wonâ€™t make the same mistake in the second leg,â€ said Ike, while Okonkwo, the most talked about local player, who has been in and out of the Eagles said there wonâ€™t be any underrating of the Menas of Niger.
â€œI think what happened in the first leg should be better forgotten, because we underrated them and played as if we had already qualified. So they simply capitalized on our state of mind to teach us a lesson, but I can assure you that we will pay them back in their own coinâ€, Okonkwo said.
â€œThe tournament will be a golden opportunity to showcase our talents and show the world what we can do as home-based Nigerian players. Everybody needs to score goals now to secure the ticket because we need up to three goals without conceding. With the caliber of strikers we have I think we can even score more that three goals and it would be my responsibility to ensure that no goal goes past our goalkeeperâ€, the Bayelsa United full back assured.
Apart from qualifying, the local players will also attempt to showcase their skill and ability before Lagerback who is randomly selecting players he would screen before picking his final squad for the World Cup.