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Can enigmatic ‘Super Eagles’ dare in Brazil?

Saleque Sufi |
Update: 2014-05-27 01:21:00
Can enigmatic ‘Super Eagles’ dare in Brazil?

DHAKA: “Super Eagles” from Nigeria always promise so much yet produce little. They have raw skills, athleticism strength, wonderful football sense yet they lack the temperament and abilities to put these together to win big. 

In world stage it all matters how you translate you into performances consistently over the entire duration of match and during the entire tournament. Nigerian teams in the past demonstrated flashes of brilliance only to fade out too early. Will the Eagles dare this time in Brazil? 

Nigeria is the current champions of African National Cup (ANC). But still have not acquired the African Giants status like Ivory Coast and Egypt. Brazil world cup 2014 is another opportunity for Nigeria to redeem. Can the Super Eagles fly beyond the last 16?

Nigeria definitely possessed the ability to become the first African country to get past the World Cup group phase on three separate occasions but in every occasion proved an unpredictable force. 

Africa’s most populous nation advanced to the second round in their maiden World Cup finals appearance in 1994 and again four years later in France. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Nigeria won the soccer gold medal. Since then they bubbled under, threatening and promising something else was on the way but not delivering.

In 2014 Nigeria will be fancied to finish among the top two in Group F where they meet former world champions Argentina, debutants Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iran. The burden of expectation has often tripped up the Super Eagles, who represent a country with passionate – and demanding – fans.

Twice in the past of their four world cup appearances Nigeria advanced from the group stage. They have no reasons why not to achieve that in Brazil 2014. Rookie Bosnia-Herzegovina and Asian toddlers Iran must not cause big worries for them. 

Nigeria should advance along with favorites Argentina. They did not win against Argentina in world cup but they did not get ran over either. They lost 2-1 in 1994, 1-0 in both 2002 and 2010. In Johannesburg in 2010 Nigeria managed to keep strong Argentine strikers at bay.

Vincent Eneyama earned the praise of Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona calling him “phenomenon”. He is not more matured and may prove more difficult to go past. He is class by himself. He went 1062 minutes without conceding a goal in French League for his team Lille. 

Nigerian team has some players having overseas professional experience. John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses are other prominent ones expected to excel in Brazil. Moses has been hailed as the new Jay-Jay Okocha the midfielder named among the top 125 footballers alive by Pele in 2004. Playing for Liverpool Victor Moses has made waves in English Premier League.

Nigeria’s coach Stephen Keshi has blended experienced overseas players with local talents having strong belief on home grown players. Striker Sunday Mba is an exciting talent.

World Cup qualification for Nigeria came against modest opposition – their draw in the play-off round in October and November against Ethiopia was the easiest of the five African countries who went on to reach the finals.

It means the Super Eagles have an enigmatic air about them with the potential to advance well into the knockout rounds but also largely untested and relatively inexperienced.

Much of their game is based on pacey attack, with a lot of emphasis on wide play, but their main finisher, Emmanuel Emenike, is often guilty of missing a myriad of chances and in defense there is an air of vulnerability

Nigeria Squad:

Goal Keepers: Vincent Enyeama (Lille), Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be'er Sheva), Daniel Akpeyi (Warri Wolves), Chigozie Agbim (Gombe)

Defenders: Elderson Echiejile (Monaco), Efe Ambrose (Celtic), Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor), Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough), Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod), Joseph Yobo (Norwich, on loan from Fenerbahce), Kunle Odunlami (Sunshine Stars). 

Midfielders: John Mikel Obi (Chelsea), Ramon Azeez (Almeria), Ogenyi Onazi (Lazio), Joel Obi (Parma), Nnamdi Oduamadi (Varese), Ejike Uzoenyi (Enugu Rangers), Nosa Igiebor (Real Betis), Sunday Mba (Bastia), Reuben Gabriel (Waasland-Beveren), Michael Babatunde (Volyn Lutsk). 

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow), Shola Ameobi (Newcastle), Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce); Obinna Nsofor (Chievo Verona), Peter Odemwingie (Stoke), Michael Uchebo (Cercle Brugge), Victor Moses (Liverpool, on loan from Chelsea), Uche Nwofor (Heerenveen)

John Obi is the team’s emotional and creative heartbeat, relishing the responsibility afforded him. Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike are two of the continents finest attackers of Africa. The young defensive partnership of Godfrey Oboadona and Kenneth Omeruo looked remarkably established in African Nations Cup. With  Vincent Enyeama, one of best goalkeepers of the world now Super Eagles will dare in Brazil.

Coach Keshi is a proud Nigerian who went as far as branding the coaches the continent bring from Europe are mediocre. He takes pride in representing his country at international level. But all those talks of pride have so far failed to witness a Nigerian team playing truly aggressive soccer at international level. 

The team lacks goal scoring ability despite of attractive and even forward thinking football they often play. They qualified unbeaten from a group having Malawi, Kenya and Namibia yet they could only score only 7 goals. The goal shyness was again evidenced at confederation cup.

Some 168.8 million Nigerian will demand more from Super Eagles in Brazil. At 1996 Atlanta Olympics when they won soccer gold a third of Nigerians were not even born. Given the power house status that Nigerian football possess it has now an opportunity to earn the tag as the best African team and one of the best in the world.

BDST: 1120 HRS, MAY 27, 2014

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