The complexion of the oppositions is finally revealed. It is not going to be an easy deal as four former African Cup holders, including two three-times winners – Nigeria and Cameroon – find themselves in the same group. Furthermore, it means that at least two of the five teams that were at the last two World Cup finals will be absent at Russia 2018.
That should not be Nigeria’s portion. But qualification is not just about prayers and wishes. Actions are the key to success. The Super Eagles are grouped with Algeria, the topmost seed in Africa and the highest scoring side so far in the race to Russia 2018.
Paradoxically, Nigeria with two goals in two matches against upstart Swaziland ranks among the least scoring sides still in the race. But not scoring much may not be a hindrance as it seems a pattern the Super Eagles have established since World Cup 2010 where Nigeria was the least scoring side among qualifiers.
But the state of preparedness gives cause for concern. All the three other teams in Group B, which Nigeria belongs to, have coaches and have established their home grounds.
The opposite is the case for Nigeria which has been without a substantive coach for the greater part of this year and cannot lay claim to a particular home ground. To further compound the situation, even the complexion of the Super Eagles is not clear.
These are the dangerous signals as the countdown to the Group B opener, Zambia versus Nigeria, begins.
In terms of preparation, the Super Eagles look the most ill-equipped among the 20 African sides jostling for the five slots for the Russia 2018. The team will also be among the glaring absentees to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations which should have served as the dress rehearsal for the 2017 FIFA Confederation Cup and the 2018 World Cup. Appointment of a coach is the biggest headache the Nigerian team faces. A foreign coach seems the desirable. But in an environment of glaring paucity of foreign exchange to pay the coach, can the NFF really afford one? With the most critical sectors of the Nigerian economy groaning under shortage of dollars, how will the NFF be able to raise the currency and avoid defaulting in payment and the consequent distractions and expensive litigations?
Perhaps the board has answers to these. But time is fast running out. It is 98 days to the opener. The coach should be in place, focussed and ready to unveil his philosophy and impart such on the players.
On the issue of venue, the NFF has proposed three – Kaduna, Port Harcourt and Uyo. A choice has to be made promptly. Or does it mean that the three home games will be played on different grounds?
Considering that the bulk of the Super Eagles’ players are still offshore, they will just be getting familiar to the home ground just as the visiting teams. Where then is the home advantage factor? The clock is ticking…
YES, FAMILIAR FOES, THEY ARE!
The Nigerian side is famous for dramatic qualifications as the Super Eagles often put up great performances when you least expect, especially against great teams. This famous Nigerian spirit is expected to come into play when the Super Eagles line out against dreadful Algeria and Cameroon and the foxily cunning Zambia.
As pointed out ahead of last Friday’s draw, the three hurdles Nigeria has to scale are familiar ones. History may just repeat itself. As was in the days to the USA ’94, Nigeria’s path to Russia 2018 will be through the Algerian airspace.
Zambia which has never made it to the World Cup, is the team with which Nigeria opens its Phase 3 qualifying series with. It is the only side the Super Eagles have never met in a World Cup encounter. Yet both sides have met in other competitions 18 times with most ending in stalemates. Nigeria won six times and lost five.
Nigeria’s famous loss was a 5-1 win by Zambia in a 1974 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Lusaka. That was barely six months after the then Green Eagles won the gold medal at the 2nd All Africa Games in Lagos. It was against Zambia that Joseph Yobo made his debut on March 24, 2001 in Chingola.
Nigeria vs. Zambia Head-to-Head
P W D L F A
Nigeria 18 6 7 5 16 20
Zambia 18 5 7 6 20 16
15 July 1973 (ACNq) Zambia 5 -1 Nigeria
29 Jul. 1973 (ACNq) Nigeria 3-2 Zambia
14 Feb. 1976 (F) Zambia 1-3 Nigeria
10 Mar. 1978 (ACN) Zambia 0-0 Nigeria
25 Jul. 1981 (F) Zambia 3-0 Nigeria
13 Mar. 1982 (ACN) Zambia 3-0 Nigeria
10 Aug. 1985(ACNq) Nigeria 0-0 Zambia
18 Aug.1985 (ACNq) Zambia 1-0 Nigeria
12 Mar. 1990 (ACN) Zambia 0-2 Nigeria
10 April 1994 (ACN) Zambia 1-2 Nigeria
15 Dec. 1997 (F) Zambia 2-0 Nigeria
18 Dec. 1997 (F) Zambia 0-0 Nigeria
13 Jan. 2001(ACNq.) Nigeria 1-0 Zambia
24 Mar.2001 (ACNq) Zambia 1-1 Nigeria
6 Jan.2010 (F) Zambia 0-0 (Nigeria ACN) *(3-4 penalties Nigeria)
14 Nov 2011 (F) Nigeria 2-0 Zambia
25 Jan. 2013 (ACN) Zambia 1-1 Nigeria
It was in Algeria, that Nigeria picked the 1994 World Cup ticket. The Super Eagles’ last qualifying match for 2018 World Cup will also be in Algeria! But may it not be like that of 1982 when the dream to Spain ’82 was finally buried in Constantine, Algeria.
Both Nigeria and Algeria were the last African teams standing at Brazil 2014. Beyond their clashes in World Cup qualifiers, the two teams have clashed 17 times in all competitions. Honours are evenly shared at seven wins each and four drawn games. Nigeria’s biggest win over Algeria was the 5-2 recorded in a 2006 World Cup qualifiers in Oran.
Nigeria vs. Algeria Head-to-Head
P W D L F A
Nigeria 18 7 4 7 24 21
Algeria 18 7 4 7 21 24
10 Jan.1973 (2AAG) Nigeria 2-2 Algeria
28 Mar.1978 (3AAG) Algeria 1-0 Nigeria
22 Mar. 1980 (ACN) Nigeria 3-0 Algeria
10 Oct. 1981 (WCq) Nigeria 0-2 Algeria
30 Oct. 1981 (WCq) Algeria 2-1 Nigeria
10 Mar. 1982 (ACN) Algeria 2-1 Nigeria
11 Mar. 1984 (ACN) Algeria 0-0 Nigeria
15 Jan. 1988 (Oq) Algeria 1-0 Nigeria
30 Jan. 1988 (Oq) Nigeria 2-0 Algeria
23 Mar.1988 (ACN) Algeria 1-1 Nigeria *(8 -9 penalty shoot-out)
2 Mar. 1990 (ACN) Algeria 5-1 Nigeria
16 Mar. 1990 (ACN) Algeria 1-0 Nigeria
13 July 1993 (WCq) Nigeria 4-1 Algeria
8 Oct. 1993 (WCq) Algeria 1-1 Nigeria
21 Jan. 2002 (ACN) Algeria 0-1 Nigeria
3 Jul. 2004 (WCq) Nigeria 1-0 Algeria
8 Sep. 2005 (WCq) Algeria 2-5 Nigeria
30 Jan.2010 (ACN) Algeria 0-1 Nigeria
Until about 10 years ago, Nigeria versus Cameroon was a recurring decimal. In spite of the intimidating stature of our eastern neighbours, Nigeria has recorded more victories in the duo’s 19 confrontations.
In all regulation-time score-lines, Nigeria won 12 times in the 19 encounters. Four other matches ended in draw – including the infamous 2000 Africa Cup final match which Cameroon later won in ensuing penalty shootout.
Nigeria vs. Cameroon Head-to-Head
P W D L F A
Nigeria 19 12 4 3 33 17
Cameroon 19 3 4 12 17 33
8 Dec.1962 (Nkrumah) Nigeria3-1 Cameroon
1 Jan.1963 (Nkrumah) Cameroon 1-2 Nigeria
??June1966 (F) Cameroon 1-2 Nigeria
7Dec.1968 (WCq) Nigeria 1-1Cameroon
22Dec.1968 (WCq) Cameroon 2-3 Nigeria
13 Feb.1972 (F) Cameroon 1-2 Nigeria
22 Jan. 1975 (F) Nigeria 1-0 Cameroon
2 Feb. 1980 (F) Nigeria 0 -0 Cameroon
18Mar.1984 (ACN) Cameroon3-1 Nigeria
17 Mar. 1988(ACN) Cameroon 1-1Nigeria
27 Mar.1988 (ACN) Cameroon 1-0 Nigeria
10June1989 (WCq) Nigeria 2-0 Cameroon
27Aug.1989 (WCq) Cameroon 1-0Nigeria
25Jan.1992 (ACN) Cameroon 1-2 Nigeria
7Aug.1997 (LGCup) Cameroon 0-1Nigeria
13. Feb. 2000 (ACN) Nigeria 2-2 Cameroon *(3-4 penalty-shootout).
1June2003 (LGCup) Nigeria 3-0 Cameroon *aet
8. Feb.2004 (ACN) Cameroon 1-2 Nigeria
11 Oct. 2015 (F) Cameroon 0-3 Nigeria
SUPER EAGLES’ FLIGHT PATH TO RUSSIA 2018
· Match Day 1 October 3, 2016 Zambia vs. Nigeria; Algeria vs. Cameroon
· Match Day 2 November 7, 2016 Nigeria vs. Algeria; Cameroon vs. Zambia
· Match Day 3 August 28, 2017 Nigeria vs. Cameroon; Zambia vs. Algeria
· Match Day 4 September 2, 2017 Cameroon vs. Nigeria; Algeria vs. Zambia
· Match Day 5 October 2, 2017 Nigeria vs. Zambia; Cameroon vs. Algeria
· Match Day 6 November 6, 2017 Algeria vs. Nigeria; Zambia vs. Cameroon