By John Egbokhan
1994 African Cup of Nations hero, Emmanuel Amuneke has said that the Super Eagles still have it all to do if they are to avoid another second successive World Cup miss, insisting that the midfield would decide the teamâ€™s fate and that of soccer-savvy Nigerians.
Amuneke, while making this submissionÂ at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos, said he was worried with the slow pace of Eaglesâ€™ midfielders, comprising John Obi Mikel, Kalu Uche, Seyi Olofinjana, who he all insisted, were not only too slow in releasing the balls but also lackadaisical in fighting for lost balls.
â€œMy honest take on our present bid to qualify for the 2010 World Cup holding in South Africa is that our players need to gear up for keener tests from our opponents, like Tunisia and Kenya, who still have chances of making it to the finals.
â€œApart from the need for the players to step up their game, its is very important for our midfielders, to start taking charge of proceedings because a strong and vibrant midfield determines the fate of a team. Our midfield, as presently constituted, lacks that dynamism and that is not good for us as we face off to some tricky matches in the next three months.
â€œWith the usual array of talents at our disposal, I expect our midfielders to fight for balls and spread them quickly and precisely to our strikers, because that is the way of modern game. You cannot be foot-dragging against a mobile opposition, like the Tunisians, who would come out for the kill when we play on September 6.
â€œThey can be dangerous on the counter and for us to contain them Mikel and his midfield colleagues must be on their toes and also explore the use of the wings because that was what made the Eagles squad of the 1994 so super and we still have the quality to explode at the biggest stageâ€, said Amuneke, a tantalizing winger, who netted the two goals that condemned Zambia to a 2-1 defeat in the finals of the Nations Cup in Tunisia.
Nigeria trail Tunisia, with two points, who they host on September 6 in Abuja, followed by another home fixture against Mozambique on October 10 and the final match, an away tie against Kenya on November 14.
Victories in these three games would guarantee Nigeria an automatic berth at the biggest soccer showpiece event in the world, next year.