After a very tense ninety minutes at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, Alex Iwobi’s second-half goal was enough to punch a ticket to next year’s World Cup in Russia for the Super Eagles as they defeated the Chipolopolo of Zambia by a lone goal.
The result means that coach Gernot Rohr can afford to try out his fringe players when the Super Eagles travel to play the Desert Foxes of Algeria in November.
It is very ironic that it was the man who set the ball rolling in Ndola last year with the first goal in the 2-1 win over Zambia, who actually clinched our place in Russia with the all-important winning goal. Nigerians will be grateful to former Super Eagles captain, Austin Okocha, who was very instrumental in getting the young lad to play for Nigeria instead of the three lions of England.
The Zambians must be given a lot of credit, however, as they totally turned their fortunes around after that loss against Nigeria at home. They discarded a lot of their older and more established players and drafted the bulk of their successful youth players into the national team and that was the tonic they needed as they grew from strength to strength, picking up a point against Cameroon away from home before defeating a highly rated Algerian side home and away to put themselves in a position to be able to qualify.
They came into today’s match with the aim to beat the Eagles and put themselves in pole position to grab the sole ticket. They started the game with that intention and actually created the better chances as the Nigerians were obviously nervy.
The Zambians had a goal disallowed in the first half and that decision was a very debatable one. At the end of the day, they were finally beaten by the Super Eagles, but this crop of Zambian players should hold their heads up high and be very proud of themselves as they have shown a lot of promise and will definitely be a team to watch out for in the coming years on the continent. The people of Zambia can begin to dream again of a great Zambian team after they lost a golden generation to a tragic plane crash decades ago.
The Super Eagles have made a lot of Nigerians happy today with this victory, but as a former Governor of Lagos state once said ‘the reward of hard work is more work’. The attention for the team has to focus now how to have a solid World Cup outing and go further than we have ever gone in the tournament. The draw for the World Cup will be held in December and after that the Super Eagles will know their opponents for the group stage of the World Cup.
Friendly matches against opponents of similar qualities to our group rivals MUST be arranged and training camps too as they would only serve to get them ready for the tournament proper. We have done the first part which is to qualify; now the aim is to create history in Russia next year.