It is a sort of half-time like in a conventional football match for both the NFF board and its lead brand, the Super Eagles.
Most members of the present board of the NFF had their second year anniversary last Friday, having been elected into offices on September 30, 2014. They have two more years to make our football fortunes look upward again.
The turnaround begins on Sunday. The Super Eagles are expected to gather this week for training ahead of the Sunday’s World Cup qualifying away tie against Zambia in Ndola. So, this week is the half time to the second half of the qualifiers.
The Ndola game therefore holds great significance for both the NFF and the fortunes of our football which in the past few months have nose-dived considerably. Forget the so-called ‘golden’ bronze of Rio 2016 Olympics.
There is always just a position for just the champions. Runners up are relegated into position of anonymity talk less of third-placed teams. The exception perhaps is if the losers and third placed teams are previously underdogs. Their final placement may then be considered a great feat.
This should not so with a football team of Nigeria’s stature. Winning therefore should be everything to us on Sunday. That our men’s team in all categories will be glaring absentees in continental competitions next year and by extension, the global competitions that follow the continental tournaments, is already enough disgrace.
Therefore, missing out at the World Cup will be a disaster. That is what the present board should know. Anyone with even a little knowledge of history will know the impact of the World Cup in the electoral fortunes of NFF leadership.
Not qualifying for the 2006 edition and the remarks by Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima that the “World Cup qualification was not our birthright”, was the strongest factor that ensured his exit from office.
Despite Sani Lulu Abdulahi doing all the electoral calculations that would have undoubtedly seen his return for a second term in office in 2010, the misadventures at the South Africa World Cup made his ‘empire’ crumble as he was impeached.
The similar misfortunes at the Brazil 2014 ensured the embarrassment and ouster of Aminu Maigari from office. The danger signals are glaringly there for Pinick to pick. The game in Zambia is a must-win if confidence in Nigerian football is to be restored.
MOST FAVOURED BY FIXTURES
When the fixtures for Group B of Africa’s World Cup qualifiers were drawn in June, pundits easily saw a “Group of Death” featuring four past Africa Nations Cup holders with three of them being 2010 and 2014 World Cup finalists. And each of the three has played at least 16 matches at the World Cup.
As dicey as the group may look, the Super Eagles have the best of fixtures, facing first the least strong side in the group and having a back-to-back home games against the other two.
Except things go awry, the Super Eagles should be primed to have a nine-point head start before the home stretch of the final qualifiers. This explains why the first game with Zambia is very important. Like most four-team league format contests, especially when only one team will be deemed successful, the first match is often very crucial.
Of the three opponents, Zambia is the most vulnerable for the Eagles. Achieving a double should be a prime target. It begins with Sunday’s clash.
WINSTON KALENGO IS THE MAN TO WATCH
Based on video clips analysis, Nigeria’s Manager, Gernot Rohr has pointed at Stopila Sunzu of French side, Lille and Rainford Kalaba of DR Congo’s TP Mazembe, as the danger men in the Zambian side.
But if statistics is anything to go by, Winston Kalengo is another player the Super Eagles cannot ignore.
Most of the goals in Zambia’s favour in the past 12 months came off the lethal feet of Kalengo. He currently plays for AC Leopard in Congo.
He has had 11 seasons of top flight football in the Zambian league in which his total goals is put at 103. Some Zambians nicknamed him “Kalengoal” for his scoring exploits.
According to information gathered, his strength in the penalty box and wonderful acceleration when he is next to a defender is very impressive.
Looking at some recent games of Zambia, Kalengo scored the two goals, home and away against Congo last March. He replicated the feat again in World Cup qualifying encounters against Sudan, scoring home and away in the 3-0 aggregate win. He also scored in the away 2-1 win over Kenya last year September. Need one to say more?
He is known to strike the ball with power and pace. “Kalengo is a specialist especially from central positions, with a style which revolves around beating the goalkeeper with speed and depth”, reveals the information gathered on him from a Zambian football blogger. Carl Ikeme and the Super Eagles’ defenders should watch out.
NIGERIA’S SECOND DEFEAT ON NATIONAL DAY
When Brazil defeated Nigeria 1-0 last Saturday in the U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan, it was the second time that a Nigerian team played in a FIFA tournament on a Nigerian national day – October 1. It also marked a second time Nigeria lost a match on its national day. The first time being a 1-5 loss to Ghana in1961.
In 2009 in Cairo Egypt, Nigeria mauled Tahiti 5-0 in a Group B duel of FIFA U-20 World Cup. Moreover, Nigeria’s fifth goal scored on the dot of 90 minutes by Daniel Adejo turned a milestone. It was the 1,800th goal in the tournament’s history.
There have also been other October 1 matches involving Nigeria. In the inaugural edition of the now defunct Dowuona-Hammond Cup involving Nigeria and Ghana Academicals played in Lagos on October 1, 1961, Nigeria lost 1-5 at home.
Also, the Flying Eagles on October 1, 1978 beat Cameroon 2-0 in Yaoundé in the qualifying series of the 1979 FIFA World Youth Championship.
On October 1, 1994, Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets beat Angola 3-0 in Lagos to get a 5-1 aggregate victory in the qualifying series of 1995 Africa U-17 Championship.
NIGERIA VS ZAMBIA HEAD-TO-HEAD
FACT FILE: When Nigeria faces Zambia on Sunday, it will be the first ever World Cup qualifying clash for both teams.
P W D L F A
Nigeria 18 6 7 5 16 20
Zambia 18 5 7 6 20 16
15 July 1973 (Afcon.q) Zambia 5 -1 Nigeria
29 Jul. 1973 (Afcon.q) Nigeria 3-2 Zambia
14 Feb. 1976 (F) Zambia 1-3 Nigeria
10 Mar. 1978 (Afcon) Zambia 0-0 Nigeria
25 Jul. 1981 (F) Zambia 3-0 Nigeria
13 Mar. 1982 (Afcon) Zambia 3-0 Nigeria
10 Aug. 1985(Afcon.q) Nigeria 0-0 Zambia
18 Aug.1985 (Afcon.q) Zambia 1-0 Nigeria
12 Mar. 1990 (Afcon) Zambia 0-2 Nigeria
10 April 1994 (Afcon) Zambia 1-2 Nigeria
15 Dec. 1997 (F) Zambia 2-0 Nigeria
18 Dec. 1997 (F) Zambia 0-0 Nigeria
13 Jan. 2001(Afcon.q) Nigeria 1-0 Zambia
24 Mar.2001 (Afcon.q) 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 (Afcon) Zambia 1-1 Nigeria
SUPER EAGLES’ FLIGHT PATH TO RUSSIA 2018
· Match Day 1 October 9, 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