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Mathematics of World Cup qualification

By Mike Ebonugwo
IT was  heated debates as usual at most bus-stop gatherings on  Sunday following the Super Eagles barren draw with the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia in Rades on Saturday night.

The debates centred essentially on the performance of the Nigerian national team and the implication of the outcome of the match on the country’s World Cup qualification..

At one of such gatherings in Igando, Lagos, the debate almost took the shape of statistical evaluation as the parliamentarians went mathematical in trying to predict the chances of the Super Eagles qualifying for the World Cup.

“Well, the result is not a bad one because by playing this draw, Nigeria now has the chance to beat Tunisia in Abuja and top our group.

From there our qualification is guaranteed because I’m sure we will easily beat both Mozambique and Kenya in our remaining matches to record more points than Tunisia,” submitted a parliamentarian, Edward Orairo, brimming with optimism.

Parliamentarian Jide Balogun readily agreed with him. “Yes now. As far as I’m concerned, Super Eagles have already qualified for the World Cup.

When Tunisia comes here in September for the second leg, it’s babanla beating that they will receive because Eagles now know that is the only match standing between them and the World Cup.

By the time we beat them, Nigeria will have eight points while they will remain at their seven points. And after we have beaten Mozambique and Kenya we will have six points plus the eight points we already have, bringing the total to 14 points.

The highest points Tunisia will get if they manage to beat Kenya and Mozambique in their remaining matches is 13. So, Nigeria will qualify at their expense,” he quipped with a confidence almost bordering on arrogance.

But a parliamentarian who gave his name as Solomon Ameh immediately called for caution. “Look O, it may not be as easy as we think. I read that the Tunisian coach says they are coming here to beat us. And honestly speaking, I’m afraid of the Tunisians.

I still remember that they are the ones that stopped Nigeria from playing in the 1978 World Cup. We played a draw in the first leg at their place but they came here to beat us 1-0 and qualified. Although I’m not so sure, but it’s like there was a time they also stopped us from going to the World Cup.

“What I’m trying to say is that supposing they come here and force us to a draw, that means they will maintain their two-goal lead over us. And if both countries manage to win their remaining matches they will be the ones that will qualify and not us,” he stated apprehensively.

Jide was, however, sure that would not happen. “That one will not happen lai-lai. Tunisia, come here to get a draw? Impossible! They can never be able to get a draw from this Amodu’s Super Eagles. Instead we will bash them seriously. In fact, they are even lucky that we did not beat them at their place yesterday.

If Mike Eneramo has not missed that cross in the dying minutes, Nigeria would have scored. But I’m sure that by the time they come to Abuja, they will use basket to carry the goals we will score against them,” he boasted, waxing more and more confident.
A parliamentarian Francis Igwe, however, disagreed with him.

For Francis: “What Eagles played yesterday is rubbish. I thought that going by the way they were boasting about that match they will go there and beat Tunisia. But what did we see?

It was even the Tunisians that pressed us throughout the match. It was just that luck was not on their side, otherwise they would have scored at least two goals against us.

I don’t even know why Amodu went and introduced Yobo, Mikel and Taiye Taiwo into the match. He should have fielded all the boys that he used to beat France in that match.

I’m sure if he had done that, the result would have been different. But he allowed some people to put pressure on him to change his team. My fear is that if he continues like this Nigeria may not even qualify.

Tunisia will just come here and beat us”.

Responding to this submission, parliamentarian Andy Ekong aligned with those who were very optimistic that the Super Eagles would scrape through the qualifiers to land in South Africa. “What you have to understand is that the match Eagles played in Tunisia is a tactical one.

Yes, Tunisia is a very tough country. And that is why Amodu has to approach the match with care. It’s not the kind of match you play by attacking and attacking because it will be counter-productive.

Tunisia, like all other North African countries, are very good in counter-attack. They were hoping that Eagles will attack them so that they will catch us in a counter-attack. But Amodu  anticipated what they planned to do and used a different tactics.

That is why Eagles appeared to be slow, but they were actually waiting to catch the Tunisians on the counter,” he explained.

Edward concurred, adding: “Tunisia was determined to beat us and they did everything possible to achieve their aim but we thank God that they failed. You see, by Nigeria holding them to a draw, the Tunisians are not happy.

They are not happy because they realised that their best chance to top the group and qualify is by beating Nigeria at their place.

But since that has failed they are aware that Nigeria now has the advantage in terms of doing everything to win the second leg in Abuja.

And like I said before, I’m sure that they will not survive in Abuja; Nigeria must surely beat them and there’;s nothing they can do about it”.

Most of his fellow parliamentarians nodded their assent to it.

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