Posted by Nelson Dafe | 16 June 2014 | 4,337 times
It is win today against Iran or our interest would be considerably over as far as passionately following the World Cup is concerned.
Yes, it’s that straightforward. Bookmakers, fans, and even the Super Eagles players would tell you that if Nigeria has to advance from Group F of the Brazil 2014 World Cup, then beating Iran is not negotiable.
On paper, the Iranians present the easiest challenge to the Super Eagles’ ambition of progressing to the second round of the championship.
Giving that there is almighty Argentina (complete with the Messis, Agueros, Garays, et al) and a technically and tactically adept Bosnia Herzegovina side that has in its ranks Edin Dzeko, who played a central role in Manchester City’s Premier League title win, the Nigerians know that there’s little wiggle room out of this group.
Speaking in the build-up to France’s match against Honduras yesterday, Arsenal’s French manager Arsene Wenger reportedly said that France should quit playing international football if they couldn’t beat a team like Honduras. Though it’s difficult to argue that the gulf between Nigeria and Iran as football playing nations is as wide as that between France and Honduras, still there’s an enormous feeling that a country with a plethora of names that shake soccer at the biggest stage like Mikel, Odemwingie, Moses and Emenike should be able to douse the flames of Iran, who have no really widely known name in the international football firmament, or they should forget about making any serious impact in the Mundial.
But such is the pressure that football throws on a team and its players that tasks that are touted as relatively easier sometimes become sources of unbridled nerves that lead to choking and, ultimately, failure.
For all the boastful noises from both teams, 90 minutes in Curitiba this evening will show the stuff they are made of. Nigeria’s coach Stephen Keshi has admitted that his team knows little of Iran. If this is true, one wonders how difficult it is to obtain clips of football matches involving Asian teams these days.
Perhaps Keshi was being conservative with the truth, so as not to give too much away as regards his game plan.
Nigerians know that it’s not easy at the biggest stage of football that the World Cup is. They know that their darling team hasn’t won a World Cup match since 2008. They suspect that Iran can prove to be a fiery underdog that would be too hard to break down, but still they expect, hope and demand a win tonight.
The expectations stem from the fact that the Eagles are champions of Africa. Belief flows also from the confidence on Keshi to be able to think his way out of mammoth difficulties as he did prior to the Eagles triumph at last year’s Africa Nations Cup, where they beat heavy favourites Ivory Coast en route to lifting the trophy. Nigerians are confident that this team with its Europe-based stars and hungry home-based players will be able to up their game and put the disappointing results in their recent friendly matches behind them.
The World Cup, and indeed any tournament that we participate in, is never the same again for us in terms of excitement and followership when our darling Super Eagles are out. This makes us hope all the more for a win tonight.
We want to sing the ‘Arise oh compatriots’ with the boys; we want to celebrate wildly every goal, every win, every joyful moment. We want to once again, forget our tribal, religious and political differences and come together as one.
Hopefully we win tonight and all the good things about the country come to the fore in our hearts and mouths. A loss (God-forbid) and we may likely just follow the rest games with tempered excitements.
Let the World Cup begin proper for Nigeria tonight, and good luck to the boys who will defend the Green-White-Green flag tonight.
•Photo shows the Super Eagles. PS: follow News Express live coverage of the match that kicks off 8pm.
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