Mozambique, Tunisia and Kenya stand in the way between Nigeria and the 2010 world cup. A quick glance and anybody could be forgiven for thinking that this was a forgone conclusion, especially after the way the Nigerians eased their way through to the final qualifying round. Nigeria got to this stage by winning Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea both home and away, however, they showed their quality by beating the hosts for 2010, South Africa, twice.
Their first game in the third and final qualifying round came against Mozambique at the Machava Stadium on 29th March. The country ranked 30th in the world were undoubtedly massive favourites against the Mambans and Shaibu Amodu, the Nigerian coach, would have been more than confident in his team to win comfortably.
The Nigerians, however, were matched throughout by the battling opponents and the Mozambicans were the team on top for most of the game. In the end, neither team could find a way through and the match finished goalless. The draw was frustrating for Nigeria who boasted a star studded line-up including Obafemi Martins, John Obi-Mikel and Danny Shittu. Nigerias next qualifier is against Tunisia and they will have to improve if they want to take the three points from that game.
The spotlight will be on Amodu in the next few qualifiers as the pressure from the Nigerian fans builds up. Many are calling for a total revamp of the squad. Players like Nwankwo Kanu and Yakubu Aiyegbeni have become less effective playing for their country and the Nigerians are beoming tired of this. The Nigerian U20’s and U17’s teams have now reached their respective world cups and some super eagle followers believe that the younger Nigerian footballers are more than capable of stepping in when the present stars under perform.
Nigeria will be expected to make it to the world cup finals but their potential performance in the tournament couldn’t be more unpredictable. Which team will turn up? The possible world-beating eagles or the super under-performing flops. One thing that can be said now is that the tournament will miss something special if the eagles can’t make it to South Africa.