NIGERIANS have continued to shower encomiums on the Super Eagles since our national football team became the first African side to secure qualification for the 2018 World Cup holding in Russia. The team achieved this feat by beating the visiting Chipolopolo of Zambia 1-0 on Saturday October 7, 2017 at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Victory ensured that Nigeria garnered 13 points, thus giving the country an unassailable six-point lead over its closest rival, Zambia, which remains second on seven points after five matches in Group B of the African World Cup qualifying series.
The Super Eagles became the toast of all football-loving Nigerians not only for securing qualification with a match to spare, but also for its outstanding performances in all the matches, winning three, drawing two and even humiliating the dreaded Indomitable Lions of Cameroon 4-0. The team’s next game is against an already eliminated Algeria, a formality match which the Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, has declared a must-win to finish with 16 points on the Group B qualifying log.
The success of the team is better appreciated by the fact that it competed for the sole World Cup qualifying ticket in Group B with such formidable opponents as Cameroon and Algeria who parade the reputation of having participated and recorded impressive performances in past World Cup tournaments. Zambia, another country in the group, is a Confederation of African Football, CAF, Nations Cup winner in 2012. Indeed, Group B was dubbed the “Group of Death” by most pundits shortly after the draws.
We thus join all Nigerians in applauding the players and their technical crew for giving Nigeria the opportunity of taking part in a World Cup tournament for the sixth time since its debut in 1994. This is a great consolation for our country which has been unable to feature in the African Nations Cup since winning the trophy in 2013.
We particularly hail the commitment of the players and the resilience and patriotism which they brought to bear in the execution of the matches and the heart-warming results recorded. We also thank all the individuals and corporate organisations who have so far appreciated the efforts of the boys by showering them with cash gifts.
But we must put aside the euphoria and face the main task of making a meaningful impact at the Russia Mundial. Other countries which have secured their own tickets have already started preparations. Nigeria should do likewise.
The Nigeria Football Federation, NFF and the Sports Ministry should immediately initiate the right preparations. Of great importance is securing quality international friendly tune-up matches. Being the first country to qualify in Africa imposes great responsibilities on Nigeria to lead the African challenge for the trophy, and we must live up to expectation.