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We have come a long way, our chances are brighter – Keshi

When the Super Eagles file out at the Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre, it will be with an objective to make certain their qualification into the Round of 16 at the ongoing World Cup in Brazil.

The Super Eagles, Stephen Keshi, was quoted to have made this objective clear to his players.

“We have come a long way. We have won one match, got a draw from another. Our chances are brighter now in the group.

“We shall go out there to put up a fight of our lives. In terms of technical preparation for the game, we are ready,’’ Ben Alaiya, Media Officer of the Super Eagles, quoted Keshi as saying.

In response to a question over rumours that Bosina want to throw the group open, Keshi according to Alaiya, said that the issue was clearly for FIFA to deal with.

“I am concerned about playing to win,’’ Keshi said

The President of Nigeria Football Association (NFA), Aminu Maigari, on his part urged the Eagles to go all out against Argentina on Wednesday to ensure the qualification of the team into the Round of 16.

According to him, he would be delighted with a favourable outcome as the match-day would coincide on his birthday.

“My birthday is on the day we are playing Argentina, and I will feel special if we defeat the Argentines.

“But more than that, a place in the Round of 16 will bring joy to the Nigerian delegation here in Brazil as well as to our people back home.

“We have so many reasons to go all out on Wednesday for victory.

“The Argentines have always beaten us at the FIFA World Cup, though narrowly each time. We also need to show our true strength as the champions of Africa,” Maigari said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Nigeria met Argentina first at USA ’94 World Cup.

The Eagles also lost to Argentina at the 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup and 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Nigeria has lost 1-2 to Argentina in Boston, USA on June 25, 1994, and was again pipped 1-0 courtesy of a Gabriel Batistuta goal in Ibaraki, Japan on June 2, 2002.

When both sides met in South Africa four years ago, an early goal by Gabriel Heinze condemned the Eagles to a 1-0 defeat.

However, at the Olympic Games, the story was not the same, in Atlanta ’96 in the U.S., Nigeria had beaten them to win the Olympic Games gold medal, a victory that left the Argentines flustered for many years.

Argentina U-23 team evened-up the Olympic record with 1-0 victory over Nigeria at the final of the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

NAN recalls the sweet memories of the 4-1 defeat the Eagles handed down to Argentina in a friendly in Abuja on June 1, 2011.

But importantly, the 3-2 defeat by the U-23 team that gave Africa the first Olympic football gold, in Atlanta, 18 years ago.

The victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Cuiaba, Brazil had taken the reigning African champions to second place in the pool with four points.

The Eagles must still avoid defeat against the two-time world champions in Porto Alegre to be certain of a place in the knockout stages.

The Media Committee Chairman of NFA, Emeka Inyama, said that the board was impressed with the sterling performance of the Super Eagles and had promptly released the winning bonuses of the team.

“The team deserved all the accolades from well-meaning Nigerians over the impressive outing so far,’’ Inyama said.

He said the association had since ensured prompt meeting of their own obligations, so as to motivate the team to go all out to seek the round of 16 ticket.

He said they had urged the players to approach the last group match with the seriousness it deserved.

“We believe that now that the team had risen to the occasion and performed creditably, they should continue and make it into the round of 16.

“The Argentines are beatable, we have beaten them once at the Olympic Games — the 1996 Games in Atlanta,’’ Inyama said.

He said that the team could be beaten again.

The city, Porto Alegre, which will host the all-important game is a city with history and the Eagles being a team that deserved positive history is poised to grab headlines as the African champions.

The stadium, located on reclaimed land on the banks of the River Guaiba, the Estadio Beira-Rio is the home of Internacional, arch-rivals to their Porto Alegre neighbours Gremio.

The venue has hosted four Copa Libertadores finals and reputed to be largest football ground in the south of Brazil and nicknamed the “Gigante do Beira-Rio” (The Giant of Beira-Rio).

The facility was officially known as the Estadio Jose Pinheiro Borda and was opened in 1969.

It took nearly a decade to build with inter-fans lending a helping hand in its construction by donating bricks, cement and iron.

So anxious were some supporters to see the ground built that they would even leave games at the club’s existing ground, Estadio dos Eucaliptos, whenever the team was losing and head to the Beira-Rio to cheer the builders on. (NAN)


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