By James Ezimoha & Solace Chukwu
Two of Goal Nigeria's finest debate the chances of the Super Eagles bringing home the world's grandest sporting price this summer.
|Nigeria can Dare to Dream
The Super Eagles are set to make a fifth appearance at the global showpiece and this time they aim as high as the final.
Coach Stephen Keshi certainly had no reason to mix words when he declared “we can win the World Cup”, and this amazing, yet audacious, aspiration is one held firmly by millions of Nigerians.
The Super Eagles players, including goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama and defender Azubuike Egwuekwe, have also echoed their managers’ assertion and are upbeat on their chances, not only to breakthrough Africa’s glass ceiling, but to win the World Cup.
So, can they really do it?
Having graced the World Cup four times in the past, Nigeria possesses valuable experience in terms of preparation, organisation and execution. And quite plausibly, the success or failure of their campaign could hinge on how this experience is utilised.
The Nigeria Football Federation has left no stone unturned in ensuring that the Eagles are well-prepared for the event. With high-profile friendly games, a suitable base and befitting new kits all in place, there seem to be no doubts over the credibility of their ambition.
New Kits | Part of deliberated World Cup preparation
However, team organisation remains a concern. In the past, avoidable distractions such as match bonus disputes have resulted in poor outings. The NFF will be keen to avoid a repeat of such episodes this time around.
On the other hand, there seem to be an unending debate over the identity of the team. Keshi received a lot of praise for including the ‘prodigal son’, Peter Odemwingie, in his 30-man squad but many are yet to come to terms with the exclusion of Villarreal forward, Ikechukwu Uche.
The mumblings indicate that not everyone is quite comfortable with the names penned by the ‘Big Boss’. However, it is noteworthy that much of the team’s success has come as a result of Keshi’s firmness on team unity, team discipline and respect—a set of principles that takes precedence over individual brilliance.
In truth, the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations triumph should have taught everyone concerned a lesson or two.
Nevertheless, all other things being equal, Nigeria can dare to dream because that’s what the World Cup is all about.
|No Glory without Organisation
The pedigree of the Super Eagles at the global football fiesta is laudable, stretching all the way back to a spunky debut in 1994. That has been the gold standard for Nigerian teams ever since, and while the thought of a World Cup win is immeasurably pleasing, pragmatism dictates it may be a tad optimistic.
The statement itself cannot be faulted. Nigeria CAN win the World Cup. Simple demographics and the law of averages dictate that the seventh most populous country on Earth ought to be able to provide 23 players to rule the world. This is buttressed by the fact that of the six nations more populated, only Brazil can boast anything close to an equal or greater following of the sport.
That said, the same reasons that Nigeria took till 1994 to make a maiden World Cup appearance, and the same reasons that ensure that a 20-year second round appearance record remains the idyll of Nigeria’s football consciousness, are the same that will prevent the team from lifting a World Cup trophy in Brazil.
The Prodigal Son | But Odemwingie cannot do it all alone...
A culture of poor forward planning, unprofessionalism, undue meddlesomeness, bureaucracy and corruption has long been the bane of Nigerian football. These concerns have not gone away. Keshi’s preliminary list of 30 was the subject of much scrutiny from the NFF, a practice not heard of in other parts of the world.
When eventually the Super Eagles gaffer released the list, it was discovered to have been leaked prior!
The capacity is there, but not the organizational expertise. In 2014, the Super Eagles will attend their 5th World Cup, overseen by a football administration that has all the savvy of a gawky teen on his first day as a college freshman.
The years have passed, but we have not learnt enough.
On the grand stage of the World Cup, there is little room for naïveté. It is this shadowy presence of inexperience, untempered by time and experience, that will keep Nigeria from a maiden World Cup triumph in Brazil.
Do you think Nigeria have what it takes to be world champions? Comment below and let us know.