BY TONY UBANI in Marrakech, Morocco
ERSTWHILE Super Eagles goalkeeper brought back a glimmer of hope for the U-23 national team who tackle Algeria today at the Merrekech Stadium, here in Morocco after they posted blank results against Morocco and Senegal.
Their chances of survival are hinged on mathematical calculations like if Morocco beat Senegal and Nigeria beat Algeria.
Rufai known for his heroics for Nigeria has all along been wearing a long face due to the annoying display of the Olympic squad. He feels it most because he is currently the co-ordinator of the team.
After the 2-1 defeat by Senegal, Rufai was in bad shape due to the bad result.. But yesterday at the Palmeiras Golf hotel in Merrakech, Rufai was radiant that the Eagles may soar today. “My brother, things will change today. At least, let them win one match. It will be difficult to be here without a win”, he said.National U-23 team captain, Kingsley Udoh who lasted only three minutes on the pitch in their opening match against Morocco after landing awkwardly on his right foot from an aerial contest has been given a clean bill of health to face Algeria in their last group match today by the team doctor, Sam Ogbondeminu. The camp of the Nigerian team which has lost two straight matches erupted in joy when news of Udoh’s return to fitness filtered late on Wednesday.
Assistant coach, Ben Iroha told our correspondent in Tangiers that the players have remained optimistic, believing they can still turn things around particularly, with the return to fitness of the inspirational captain.
Iroha said, “Udoh is a fantastic and very influential player whose services we missed sorely especially in our second match. We had a lot of problems because of his absence and now that he is back, expect a more refreshing display against Algeria.”
The former Nigeria international heaped praises on the central defender pointing out that he foresaw a bright future for Udoh, all things being equal. “If he continues this way, I see him taking over from Super Eagles captain, Yobo Joseph in no distant future,” Iroha intoned.
The players too share this optimism and were upbeat ahead of the match today. Danny Uchechi, scorer of Nigeria’s lone goal in their 2-1 loss to west African rivals, Senegal tasked his colleagues to play with more understanding if they must achieve anything worthwhile in Morocco.
Nigeria’s chances of reaching the semi final of the tournament depends on a good victory against Algeria and Senegal must lose to a weakened Morocco side