By Onochie Anibeze
Minutes afterÂ President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua spoke to the Super Eagles and urged them not to let the country down, they filed out at the stadium in Rades, Tunisia, and got a result that has put Nigeria back on track for the qualification of the 2010 World Cup that will be staged in South Africa.
The â€œPresidential talkâ€Â might not have played any role during the game but it meant a lot to the players and coaches who appreciated the concern of the President.
A goalless draw in Tunisia means that Nigeria will qualify for the World Cup if they win theirÂ remaining three matches including the one against Tunisia in Abuja on September 6.
They have two home matches against Tunisia and Mozambique and one away against Kenya who, at the weekend, beat Mozambique 2-1. Tunisia now have seven points against Nigeriaâ€™s five.
â€œThe mood in our hotel here is exciting,â€ said team spokesman Idah Peterside.â€œThe players and coaches are happy that the match ended in a draw. A defeat would have meant end of the road for us. But now, the group has been thrown open and it is left for us to win our remaining matches especially the one against Tunisia, If we draw we are back to square one. So, itâ€™s a must win situation for us and I think all hands are already on deck for us to win that match. We are already putting heads together. We have held two meetings here in Tunisia after the match.
We have brighter chance to qualify than Tunisia. They have been lamenting since Saturdayâ€™s game. Even at the post match press conference, they said we were a technical side. The players and coaches are happy. This draw is like a victory. But weâ€™ll go back to work. We are not celebrating yet. Thatâ€™s why we are holding meetings here and there. The match was a highly technical one. I listened to coach Amodu during training and pre-match talk and all he said happened. He said if they played according to instructions he had just laid outÂ the worst would be a draw.
The two teams were cautious. We did not want to be too offensive and open up our rear. If the Tunisians attacked more we could have countered them. But they were cautious too and that made the game the way it ended. If Uche Kalu clicked a little bit the way we planned we would have won the game.
But he tried his best and the entire team has an away draw against our main opposition. Itâ€™s a good result for the country. If you saw the way Tunisia played their last two matches, you would appreciate the draw that we earned. It was not as easy as people thought. Tunisians could fall, play tricks and earn penalty. We did not allow that. We were very careful not to play into their hands and give away the match. Another thing was the spirit of the players.
Yobo and Utaka chartered a jet to fly into Tunisia and not many a player can do that. And Yobo played well. Mikel was in the game and Olofinjana was better this time. When the match ended, the Tunisians were sad. You could tell that from their comments and their countenances. I think we are back on track and qualification is now on our hands. The PresidentÂ and entire Nigerians should be happy with us.â€
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