16th June, 2018
As the Super Eagles face Croatia on Saturday in their group D opener, football fans in Ebonyi have urged the team to redeem Africa’s image at the on-going World Cup in Russia by defeating their opponent.
Egypt and Morocco lost their opening games 0-1 to Uruguay and Iran respectively on Friday, to record poor starts for the continent.
The fans, who spoke on Saturday in Abakaliki, reminded the Eagles that Africa places its hopes on them to show good example to Tunisia and Senegal, who would play subsequently.
Emmanuel Utobo, Director of Sports in Ebonyi, urged the players to overcome the pressure resulting from the burden of expectations placed on them.
“The players should play with utmost calmness, adhere to coaches’ instructions and disregard whatever views people might have about them.
“They should not lose hope in spite of any situation during the match as exemplified by Portugal during its 3-3 draw with Spain on Friday.
“The Portuguese, spearheaded by the indefatigable hat trick hero, Christiano Ronaldo, equalised late into the match as they were not disorganised in spite of surrendering a 2-1 lead in the first half,” he said.
Bright Nwaneri, a football fan, urged Coach Gernot Rohr to ensure his midfield is not outclassed by the Croatians.
“The Croatians boast of a deadly midfield trio of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic; Rohr should neutralise their onslaughts by fielding more players in that position.
“The Eagles should also play without tension and defend collectively, to cover the inadequacies of first choice goalkeeper, Francs Uzoho,” he said.
Jude Anyama, a Soccer Viewing Centre Operator, advised the football authorities not to exert too much pressure on the players.
“Every decision taken on the match should be left for the coach alone, so that Nigerians would hold him accountable for any result that emanates from it.
“We have passed the stage of querying his choice of players for the tournament, or those to be fielded during matches, but should accept any decision he takes,” he said.
Chief Mbakwe Oloh, a transporter and football fan, said Nigeria does not rely on a particular star for victory, pointing out that a situation of over-reliance on a star was the undoing of Egypt.
“Egypt’s problem is over reliance on Mohammed Salah and its performance gives credence to the fact that without Salah, there is no Egypt.
“Nigeria is lucky not to find itself in such situation and this will give the players, the impetus to showcase their talents at the world cup,” he said.