By Eddie Akalonu
With many Nigerians expressing doubts overÂ the ability of the Super Eagles to make it to the finals of the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Coach Joe Eric has restated his belief in the ability of the team to perform, saying they will post a big surprise on the doubting Thomases.
“It amazes me what I hear people say of our team. I mean all indications are there to show we will make it despite the fact we trail Tunisia by two points. ScepticsÂ give an impression Tunisia is impregnable. I rather think they are gullible and could be broken in the next round of matches. ChanceeAs are Tunisia will play with fear and make mistakes. Thank God the results are okay, our team are so well placed we can fight hard to claim the sole ticket to South Africa for the Mundial. That is when I expect the players to bring out their best to play and get the results as is in their character.
“Erico” as he is known, who made his markÂ for the national team as a goalkeeperÂ in the early 1970’s and then as an assistant coach of the team as goalkeeper trainer in 2002, added that â€œwhen the chips are down, the players would bring out their best as in the past when the country had always found her chances of picking a World Cup ticketÂ herculean.
“The pattern was similar in past World Cup qualifiers starting with the USA ’94 and running through France ’98 and Korea/ Japan in 2002,” he noted. For one who has coached some of the great clubs in the country including the defunct ACB, Iwuanyanwu NationaleÂ and NEPA FC,Â Â Erico agreed however that â€œthe current situation has been made worse by Nigeria’s absence at the 2006 edition in Germany hence some of the negative views about the national team and the campaign can stand.”
It’s understandable that we failed to make it to the 2006 edition. That’s in the past now but let it not be so much talked about such that it now eats deep into this campaign andÂ perhaps begin to have a negative impact on the team.
His summation was that “the fixtures nail Tunisia and give usÂ the advantage. Are people saying we can’t play football anymore? Or that we are not equal to rising to the occasion? I’m sure nobody will say we are not up to it. Of course we are equal to the task.”
“There’s no way two home games and one away will not give us vital points to grab the ticket. Any coach who makes same calculation is being modest and I can’t see how this plan would not go the way Amodu and his team plan it. I think people should relax their minds and cheer the Eagles to give us great matches and the ticket. They will get it I know,” he emphasised.
Nigeria play both Tunisia and Mozambique at home and could grab six points from both while it will take on Kenya in the only away game of the reversed qualifiers in November.
Asked to project into the last three games the Eagles would have, Erico, popularly called â€˜Jogo Bonitoâ€™ said â€œI know the team will approach each game with tact depending on the opposition from opponents. We will be the better for each game, I know it and I feel it,” he added