7 Days To Go: Is Nigeria Ready For Russia 2018?



Nigeria: Russia 2018

The journey of the Super Eagles of Nigeria to Russia begun well over a year ago. Drawn against the likes of Cameroon-reigning African champions, Algeria,the highest ranked African team and an exuberant Zambian side,this was widely regarded as the 'Group of Death'.
The first step, a stern test against the Chipolopolo of Zambia on the 9th of October,2016. Nigeria had never beaten Zambia away from home and as such,it wasn't expected to be an easy encounter.

Nigeria: Russia 2018
                                   Photo Credit: Goal

The men in green pulled it off though with a 1-2 win courtesy of first half goals from Premier League duo Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho.It was the perfect start to the qualifiers,serving as an impulse as well as a boost to the self confidence of the team as they headed back home with maximum points.Consecutive 3-1 and 4-0 wins against Algeria and Cameroon made opponents in the group look light weight as we put one foot in the finals at Russia.


Having had our opponents play out to draws in their respective games, Nigeria needed four points from a possible nine to progress, two dour draws and a 1-0 win against Zambia at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium,Uyo,secured a place in Russia and a sixth appearance in the World Cup,one behind record holders Cameroon(seven).Victory against Zambia made Nigeria the first African team to qualify with the the Super Eagles also joining an exclusive list of countries who were unbeaten in this year's qualifying rounds after playing out to a 1-1 draw in Bilda,Algeria.

Nigeria: Russia 2018
                                   Photo Credit: Goal

In a bid to surpass our previous performances at the global showpiece,five pre World Cup friendlies were arranged by the Nigerian Football Federation with Poland,Serbia,DR Congo,England and Czech Republic seen as worthy adversaries who could stretch the team as well as help identify areas of strength and weakness with the competition fast approaching.
A worrying run of just one win, one draw and three losses with the last coming on the back of a wretched first half display in Austria was a timely reminder of how much work there still was to be done as we look to progress past the Round of 16 for the first time in history.


All hope is not lost yet though, in Victor Moses, Mikel Obi, Ahmed Musa, Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi,Wilfred Ndidi and Odion Ighalo, Nigeria boasts having players who have proved their mettle in the Premier League and beyond.
The team has a bit of work to do on the training ground still as being blessed with individual talent doesn't always cut it on the international stage,The Netherlands and Italy are prime examples of this with the latter missing out on the World Cup for the first time in over 60 years.

Alex Iwobi: Russia 2018
                                   Photo Credit: Goal

There's visible disunity in play, poor finishing and some really dismal individual performances too with Trabzonspor's Ogenyi Onazi being singled out often times for his passive disposition in the heart of Nigeria's midfield. Performances will have to be improved drastically if we're to scale through a fairly difficult group that contains Argentina,Croatia and Iceland.


We're clearly one of the underdogs in the tournament but there's no saying how far we can or can't go as the unpredictable nature of the beautiful game doesn't always seem to conform with the expectations of supporters across the globe. Nigeria however, has got enough talent to upset any team in the competition and should not be written off just yet.

                                   Photo Credit: Goal

Gernot Rohr's men will kick-start their campaign with Croatia on Saturday,16th June 8pm WAT at the Kaliningrad Stadium.


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