Category Archives: World Cup
The exploits of the Super Eagles of Nigeria at the last Africa Nations Cup are still fresh in our memories. Like many outstanding teams of the past, they must now focus their attention on the new challenge ahead of them. Getting soaked in or carried away by past successes had been the albatross of potential greatness in some of our past teams.
I could recall the euphoria that followed our triumph at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the United States of America after the ‘Dream Team’ won the gold medal of the men’s football event. It was as if Nigeria had won the FIFA World Cup. Being the first African country to achieve that feat didn’t help matters as we were celebrated by all and sundry.
Only very few people expected the Super Eagles to get to the finals of the Nations Cup. A lot of the new ‘supporters’ had silently wished that the team crash out of the tournament so that the need for a world class ‘white’ technical adviser (we seem to be the only country still using that term for our senior team managers) could be sold to the powers that be in Abuja.
Somehow and in an unbelievable manner, Stephen Keshi and his team are in the finals and would make the day of millions of Nigerians tomorrow if they could finish the job they started three weeks ago by defeating the formidable Burkinabes. The achievement of the current Super Eagles when compared to the past teams is quite encouraging. The last time Nigeria had so many debutants at a major tournament was in the Nations Cup hosted by Algeria in 1990.
Similar to what happened to Roberto Di Matteo on Wednesday this week, Mano Menezes and Mark Hughes lost their jobs with Brazil and QPR respectively. While that of Hughes is expected, not many envisaged that the Brazilian would be asked to leave despite the fact that he’s currently putting together a talented squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup to be hosted by his nation.
After the loss to Mexico in the finals of the London Olympics, I knew that he could be sacked. Having survived four months after that show piece event in the saddle, I thought Mano had weathered the storm. The dream of taking the ‘Selecao’ to the World Cup as hosts has been left in tatters and the world is waiting to see who steps next into the hot seat.
What could have turned out to be one of the best football matches in the EPL in recent times was marred by incompetent refereeing by Mark Clattenburg. I couldn’t agree more with the view of Roberto Di Matteo that “It’s a shame the game has to be decided in that manner. We are massively disappointed that these key decisions were wrong. It always seems to be in favour of the opposition. It was a good game of football with two good teams and the officials ruined it”.
As I watched the referee issue two red cards in a space of five minutes to Chelsea when they were on the ascendancy and putting their opponents to the sword, I couldn’t help but remember the finals of the 2005 FIFA Under 20 World Cup in Holland when Nigeria lost to Argentina due to dubious penalty awards which Messi put away. The same referee refused to give Nigeria a clear penalty when Obasi Ogbuke was bundled over by Pablo Zaballeta.
A few years back, I sat down with two of my friends who are both fans of Barcelona FC. We engaged ourselves in a discussion as to which football competition is the best in terms of quality, organization, coverage etc. We all concluded after sometime that the UEFA Champions League is the best football competition in the world.
While the FIFA World Cup is an eag erly anticipated four-year showpiece, the fact that some great players like our own George Opong Weah and Ryan Giggs never appeared at the Mundial removes part of the shine. There are many more quality players who grace the European evenings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays that would never go to the World Cup but are far, far better than some players that would be paraded due to the inability of their countries to qualify.