14 Days To World Cup: Doom Awaits Nigerian Team —Ex-Eagle Predicts


•STRUGGLE...Nigeria’s Haruna Lukman (left) and Saudi’s Ahmen Ibrahim Ateef fight for the ball during their friendly match at Alpen stadium in Tyrolian Wattens, Austria yesterday. The game ended in a barren draw. AFP PHOTO.

The performance of Nigeria’s Super Eagles during yesterday’s pre-World Cup friendly match against Saudi Arabia speaks volume of the doom that awaits the nation when the mundial kicks off, that’s the prediction of Jonathan Akpoborie.

•STRUGGLE...Nigeria’s Haruna Lukman (left) and Saudi’s Ahmen Ibrahim Ateef fight for the ball during their friendly match at Alpen stadium in Tyrolian Wattens, Austria yesterday. The game ended in a barren draw. AFP PHOTO.

Akpoborie, a former Nigerian international, said he couldn’t believe that the Nigerian team have descended so low, playing an uninspiring goalless draw against the Saudis in Austria.

Akpoborie described the lacklustre performance of the Eagles as unfortunate, warning the soccer loving Nigerians not to expect anything from the team that played their first match under new Technical Adviser, Lars Lagerback.

Akpoborie, who spent a greater part of his playing career in Germany, said Lagerback’s Eagles played poorly in the match. He said judging from what he saw of the Eagles yesterday, there are strong indications that Nigeria will have a disastrous outing in the World Cup, which kicks off in just two weeks from now.

“This is what we have been saying for a very long time. The time that our football federation brought in Lagerback was not good for Nigerian football. The time is too short for him to make  meaningful changes in the team. He can’t make much impact in the team for now and it will be hard for the Eagles to get it right between now and 11 June, when the World Cup would start,” Akpoborie said on brilafm early today.

Apart from Akpoborie, Secretary General of the Nigeria Football League, NFL, Alhassan Yakmut, Sam Sodje, an England-based Eagles player and many Nigerians were of the opinion that the Eagles would be disgraced in South Africa.

Sodje said: “I watched the joke that Nigeria called a friendly match against Saudi Arabia yesterday. To me, that’s a big joke and I feel our nation is yet to get a team for the World Cup.”

In a swift reaction to their poor showing yesterday, Hoffenheim of Germany forward, Chinedu Obasi Ogbuke appealed to Nigerians not to write the Eagles off before the mundial begins.

He said Nigerians should not use the draw against Saudi Arabia to judge the players and their coaches, saying they can still get better as their preparations continue in London.

Obasi, one of the players, who featured in yesterday’s international friendly, wants Nigerians to be patient with the squad as they still have two tune up games to play before the World Cup.

The former Lyn Oslo of Norway striker said he is convinced they can still spring surprises when they kickstart their South Africa 2010 World Cup campaign against Argentina on 12 June.

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Ogbuke, who had lost on two occasions to Argentina, the first being at the World Youth Championship, WYC at the Holland 2005 and at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, said: “With the wealth of experience of our Swede coach, the Eagles still have a chance to play well in the World Cup.”

The Eagles appeared pedestrian in their friendly against the Saudis, who dominated the game in stretches and missed three solid chances to grab the win in the final 19 minutes.

Before the game, the Swede had charged his wards to play at a high tempo, but it was the Saudis who sprung off the block quicker, and they had  better opportunities, with a good chance after just six minutes.

Everton defender, Joseph Yobo had to be alert to shield a dangerous cutback while John Shittu was on hand to mop up. A few minutes later, the positions were reversed. Abdiradyah broke through, and almost created  chance for himself, but Shittu came across to make the challenge and Yobo was on hand to clean up again.

Nigeria’s first opportunity did not come until after 15 minutes, and it was a lofted ball from Haruna Lukman that just evaded Kanu’s head.

It was not until the half hour mark that the Eagles got a foothold in the game. Victor Anichebe was causing problems with his pace and drive down the left flank, while Obasi was hustling in defence and attack down the right, but the Nigerians were struggling to adapt to Largerback’s 4-4-2 formation after playing 4-3-3 for over two years.

The second half saw an improvement, although it was the Saudis who still had the better opportunities. Anichebe continued to threaten, but when he worked his way inside from the left side, Kalu Uche completely missed his low ball across the goal area.

Saudi’s Saeed found himself played in between Yobo and Shittu, but managed to squeeze the ball wide with Ejide at his mercy, that was about 20 minutes to the end of the match.

Ejide saved a near chance few minutes to full time, volleying the ball over the bar, while the Eagles failed to penetrate the defence of their opponents.

Nigeria’s next match hold against Colombia in London on Sunday.

—Taiwo Adelu & Adebobola Alawode

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