Sunday, January 23, 2022

Like France ’98, Eagles’ build-up to Russia ends in two straight defeats

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• As Czech Republic win 1-0

A few days after losing 1-2 to the Three Lions of England, the Super Eagles, again, put up a dismal show yesterday against Czech Republic to end their search of a spirit-lifting performance before the kick off of the World Cup without a single win.

There had been a wane in spirit of many Nigerian football fans regarding the performances of the team in their last three matches, a repeat of the build up to France ’98 World Cup.The Guardian recalls that in the warm up games to France ‘98, Nigeria played four matches, losing three and drew one.

After the 2-2 draw against Jamaica in Kingston, where Samson Siasia and the late Rashidi Yekini scored for the Eagles, the team went down 0-1 to Germany in one of the high profile friendlies prior to France ‘98 World Cup.

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It was followed by a 3-0 defeat from another European country, former Yugoslavia. The game played in Beograd in front of 60,000 fans, saw former goalkeeper, Abiodun Baruwa committing a blunder, which resulted in the second goal.

And on June 5, 1998, the Eagles suffered a humiliating 5-1 defeat to the Netherlands inside the Amsterdam Arena, with Patrick Kluivert bagging a brace. The Super Eagles were desperate to trap some wind in their sails after a spirited display against England last weekend at the Wembley Stadium. But yesterday, the Eagles went down 0-1 to Czech Republic, who were playing for pride, after being knocked out from the race to Russia.

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As witnessed against England, the Eagles had another sluggish start to the match yesterday. Five minutes into the match, Victor Moses tried to curl a free kick around the wall and got it on target, but goalkeeper Vaclik Thomas stopped it.

Patrik Shick then went for goal from a volley that dropped from space but Eagles goalkeeper Francis Uzoho palmed it away for a corner.Uzoho was called to action again with a save from Sural Josef’s volley. But the Super Eagles goalie could not stop Czech Republic from racing into the lead in the 25th minute. Kalas Tomas slammed the ball to the back of the net after Uzoho spilled a goal bound header.

John Ogu should have converted a simple chance few minutes later, but failed to direct his header to the net after a corner by Victor Moses.Odion Ighalo also had a chance when he powered past the defender to unleash a deadly shot, which the keeper saved.

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Antonin Barak could have made it two for Czech, but his volley from 25 yards went out of range.Nigeria’s first shot on goal in the second half was greeted by a huge cheers from the spectators, as Ighalo flicked on a Moses corner but it landed straight into the hands of the keeper who did not move.Not even the efforts of captain, John Obi Mikel, Alex Iwobi, Odion Ighalo, Brian Idowu and substitute Tyronne Ebuehi could rescue the Eagles from defeat yesterday.

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