For the fifth time in six World cup tournaments, Nigeria has been drawn against Argentina in the group stage. Remember that in the past, the Super Eagles have lost all four previous encounters with the La Albiceleste – 1994, 2002, 2010 and 2014 – all by small margins.
Although, they really showed a strong character and good team spirit by coming from behind to beat the Argentines 4-2 in a friendly in November, 2017. It will require a similar or more performance to get the same result at the World Cup.
Leaving impudent foes aside, the Super Eagles will face new opposition in Croatia and Iceland; the opening game being a first meeting against Croatia.
Argentina struggled to qualify, having to decide their place in Russia by a play-off. This will not matter as they will be favorites to qualify from the group, leaving the second place open for competition among the three other countries.
It is of worthy note to know that this group is not the best group the Super Eagles could have fallen into, it is certainly not the worst.
How far can we go with the current team?
Although, the draws cannot be used as a yardstick for qualification. This is commensurate with the idea that anything could be possible in football. The opposition could be devoid of form, fitness and athletic motivation. The FIFA ranking is also an obscure measure to rate National teams. However, Rohr’s team should be eyeing to go beyond the best feat made by an African side at a FIFA World Cup. Senegal and Ghana currently hold that wreath as they reached the last eight in 2010 and 2002 World Cups respectively.
In the win against Argentina, Rohr made use of a strange 3-5-2 formation which the players were lithy to adapt to. This would make the players unpredictable by opposition teams. It would also give the coach a new dimension in trying different players. In that game, we saw Kelechi Iheanacho being deployed as a front man.
Furthermore, another key substance the team currently possesses is the commitment and skill to excel irrespective of their opposition.
Gernot Rohr’s reign
The Franco-German veteran was appointed in August 2016 and he immediately set out to repair the damages done by the last tenure of Sunday Oliseh, a mission was deemed impossible by many insiders in the Glass House and football lovers. Step by step; he was able to redeem the battered image of the Super Eagles.
This he did as he steered Nigeria through its World Cup qualifying campaign unbeaten and against of all the odds thrown at him, even with the scary draws.
Throughout the qualifiers, Rohr employed a course of inviting players based on merit alongside mixing and blending youth with experience.
He made sure he reduced the average age of the squad to just less than or a bit above 25 years, with the team playing with so much power, pace and precision in their games.
Mikel Obi, Leon Balogun and Victor Moses have all been key players in the team as they have brought a level of experience and drive to enhance the chances of the team.
Kelechi Iheanacho and Alexander Iwobi
Both have been tipped as the future of the Super Eagles by pundits both at home and the International scene. The skill and steady rise of Nigeria’s youthful vibe will be a key to plummeting the team to Eagle’s soar in Russia, as long as they maintain a fantastic form by getting adequate game time prior to the tournament. The duo’s bromance is another added advantage the team has.
This article was written by Alex Ndace; he tweets via @AlexNdace
Culled from Issue 19