By Jude Opara, Abuja
Come September 1, the Super Eagles of Nigeria will be
hosting their arch rivals, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon
in a high octane Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier at the
Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, Akwa Ibom
The match will indeed determine whether Nigeria will be
making her sixth appearance at the World Cup or not.
Currently, dictating the pace in Group B of the qualifier with
maximum six points, the Super Eagles know that a victory
over Cameroon will leave them with just one more victory
to fly to Russia next year. On the other hand, a defeat will
not only hand Cameroon a five points boost, but it will as
well dampen the morale of the Eagles ahead of the return
leg of the twin header in Yaoundé on September 4.
Many analysts are apprehensive over the ability of the Super
Eagles to defeat Cameroon, who are currently the African
champions given the rather lack lustre performance of the
team against South Africa in the African Cup of Nations
(AFCON) qualifier played last June where the team lost 2-0
to the visiting Bafana Bafana. Super Eagles training
But with the return of notable players like captain, Mikel
Obi, Chelsea wing back, Victor Moses, defender William
Troost-Ekong and striker, Odion Ighalo, many analysts
believe that will surely be a boost to the Super Eagles.
Proprietor of JC Raiders FC of Jos, Lumumba Adeh who
spoke on a radio programme monitored in Abuja over the
weekend said that Nigerians should not continue to judge
the Super Eagles based on the defeat to South Africa last
June because no two matches are the same.
“I am speaking as somebody that played the game and
today I am also managing football. I know that there are no
two matches that are strictly the same. Also I believe
strongly that the return of the likes of Mikel, Moses, Ighalo
and Ekong can make all the difference.”
If previous records are any thing to go by, there is little or
no reason for Nigerians to be apprehensive. Since 1960
when the two countries played for the first time, they have
confronted each other 20 times with the record favouring
Nigeria with 10 victories, four defeats and six draws.
Stretching it further, of the 20 times they have clashed, six
of them are just international friendlies. Again Nigeria has
the upper hand with two wins, one defeat and three draws.
But at times records do not determine the outcome of a
game; and this means that we must be very careful with
records because if we over relax, it has a way of
encouraging complacency while at the same time gingering
the Lions to up their game.
My take from the above is that we must respect Cameroon
yes, but we must not be seen to be afraid of them because
of some recent developments since they are now the
African champions. Nobody goes to a battle from a position
of fear and expect to come out victorious.
The NFF must also do what is necessary to draft their in-
house psychologist, Dr. Robinson Okosun into the team. It
is rather absurd that for certain reasons we are yet to find
out, they will abandon their trained psychologist while
everyday we see reasons why he should be there.
Alternatively, if they believe they are not ready to give their
own staff the opportunity to practice what he knows how to
do best; they should spend the extra money and provide a
psychologist for the team. A national team is supposed to
have a qualified psychologist who should gauge the mood
of each player at a particular time and advise on how to
However, a careful look at the team released by the
technical adviser, Gernot Rohr, one can say that most of
the best legs Nigeria can boast of at the moment were
included but one area of concern is the goalkeeping area
which has been a suspect since the sickness of first choice,
The likes of Chippa United FC of South Africa goalkeeper,
Daniel Akpeyi and FC Ifeanyi Ubah safe hands have not
really given Nigerians that reason to believe in them. That
ugly development has resulted in the call in certain quarters
for the recall of former goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama who
has left the team for the past two years.
Another area of concern in my view is the left back area
where we seem to have only one natural left footer,
Elderson Echejile. My worry stems from the fact that he is
aging and may no longer be at the peak of his career. It will
really be a huge task for him to tame the likes of Vincent
Aboubakar and Christian Bassogog.
There is also the rumour in football circles that some of the
players especially those plying their trade in England were
included because we want to help them get the mandatory
75% appearance for their national teams which will help
them get their work permit. I don’t think that such a make
or mar encounter is one to be used to please any individual
or group. We must field our first 11 because the
Cameroonians are not coming here to joke.
Many analysts are of the view that given the form of the
Lions who also had the opportunity of playing at the last
FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia earlier in the year, the
Super Eagles handlers must make sure that part of their
preparation is to ensure that the boys were in good physical
shape ahead of the encounter.
We all know that the Cameroonians always play physical
football, therefore we must assemble boys who are
physically fit to match them strength for strength because
that is the only way we can upstage them.
However, if we do all that is necessary we will surely get the
desired result. After a look at the teams where the Lions are
plying their trade, I did not see any one of them in such
high flying teams and that suggests that the Super Eagles
must not show too much respect to their Cameroonians in
the two legged encounter.
Interestingly, Amaju Pinnick, the president of the Nigeria
Football Federation (NFF) has assured that his board will
put in place all that is necessary to ensure that the Eagles
tamed the Lions when they clash this Friday to brighten
their chances of picking the sole group ticket to Russia. All
hands must be on deck to ensure that such comes to past.
Pinnick who spoke to a foreign media channel last week
said his federation has done all that is necessary to see the
country qualify. He revealed that already his advanced team
has gone to Cameroon and has secured a good
accommodation for the team; he also assured that every
other necessary action will be taken when it is due.
They must match words with action by ensuring that the
boys got everything due to them so as not to have any
unnecessary distraction. And most importantly, the team
must not embark on self destruct like they did three years
ago when they failed to qualify for the 2015 AFCON.
Also as important is the fact that the Super Eagles technical
adviser, Gernot Rohr must be made to know that the
mentality of Nigerian players is miles different from that of
the European players he has been sued to. This means that
the idea of allowing the players any slim opportunity to mix
and interact with their friends and relations before the
match must be avoided. This is not the time to allow them
to socialize and party before the game; the camp
commandant must be at the top of his game this time
They must remember and know it that a defeat here in
Nigeria may as well mean a goodbye to the Russian
aspiration because if that happens, there is no tactic the
Cameroonians will not employ to also win at home to go
top of the group with an unassailable eight points. We must
avoid the situation where we will begin to do the catch up
and the unpalatable permutation of who will drop a point
and who will not.
Drawing from what happened in the past, it should be given
that part of the arrangement which the NFF claims it has
tied up includes the smooth arrangement for the aircraft
that will fly the team to Cameroon as soon as the game in
Recall that during the ill-fated AFCON 2017 qualifier against
Egypt in Kaduna, the Super Eagles had to go through a
rough experience of returning to Abuja by road before
waiting for about nine hours inside an aircraft before flying
to Egypt. Surely, such may have contributed to that second
The NFF must ensure that we avoid all those unforced
errors which we usually make during big occasions like the
one at hand. We are still remembering how South Africa
almost walked-over Nigeria in Uyo last June just because
the NFF forgot to produce the match balls.
Then it was said that balls had been lying at the Apapa port
awaiting clearing by the NFF but the leadership seemed not
interested in delegating responsibilities. If South Africa had
refused to provide their own ball, they would have walked-
over Nigeria at home.
Against Cameroon, given the seeming bad blood that may
have existed due largely to the role the NFF president
Amaju Pinnick played in the ultimate defeat and retirement
of Cameroon’s Isah Hayatou as CAF president, they may
not spare us if such a golden opportunity presents itself to
On the other hand, the fans who are always the 12th player
must be ready to roar and shout their darling team to
victory. The support must be total and complete and
unrelenting even if the goals do not come in time.
In fact all football stakeholders must rally behind the NFF at
a time like this. This qualification must be seen by all and
sundry as a Nigerian project and not that of the NFF. If we
qualify for the World Cup, it is the Nigerian flag that will be
hoisted and not that of any single individual or group.
It is delightful to hear that the federal government has long
approved all the funds that would be needed to prosecute
this match. We equally hope that the release has been
effected in good time to ensure that there is no room for
excuses from any quarters.
The Senate Committee has already promised that they will
continue to assist the NFF to ensure that whatever it takes
to avoid what led to the disappointing defeat to South
Africa in the AFCON qualifier in June is avoided in the two
legs against Cameroon.
According to Senator Obinna Ogba, the chairman of the
committee, the committee will mobilize to be in Uyo to
render any necessary support and assistance to the NFF to
make sure victory is secured.
Truly, that is the way to go because football is very dear to
the heart of Nigerians. One can effectively argue that
football is one factor that has a way of bringing Nigerians
together irrespective of race or religion. So we must at all
times continue to do whatever we can to help the national
team to coast to victory against their arch rivals.
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