World Cup Cracker Argentina/Nigeria: Who Carries The Day?

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As the Super Eagles file out against the Argentines today Saturday, June 12, 2010, there are indications that the match won’t be an easy one for the two teams.

Interestingly, the Argentines are one of the World Cup favourites in this year’s edition with very high pedigree having won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986. Also, they parade the world’s best players in the present tourney.

At the youth level, the Argentines have also excelled. In 2008, the Argentines beat Nigeria to win the Olympic gold medal in soccer in Beijing, China.

In 2005, the Argentines again beat Nigerians in Holand to lift the federation of International Football Association (FIFA), World Youth Championship (WYC). That was precisely when Lionel Messi, the current world’s best player came to the limelight.

On the other hand, Argentina’s first opponent in Group B, Nigeria, does not appear to be a pushover in football. It is one of the rising footballing nations in the African continent, and indeed beyond. Nigeria had its best performance at the World Cup in 1994 when she got to the knockout stage.

In 1996, Nigeria beat both Argentina and Brazil to win the Olympic gold in soccer. Nigeria has won silver twice at both the Under 21 and at the Olympic games. Nigeria is rated among the world’s best twenty. While its first opponent is among the world’s best seven. Many believe that in the game of football luck is a necessary ingredient.

Speaking with The Weekend Tide, football analyst, Mr. Chukuma Okah, who resides in Port Harcourt said in the game of soccer, anything could happen. According to him,” in paper, the Argentines are favourites to carry the day and even go ahead to win the World Cup but you see in soccer anything can happen. We are not going to play big names today, but eleven players from both sides would lock horns.”

He said though Nigeria did not parade big names in 2010 World Cup, what they required was teamwork. He noted that a cohesive and fluid team would bail Nigeria out of mediocrity and remarked that Argentina had a big team with a big names.

“The world’s best players are in the Argentine team. Look at Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Athletico Madrid’s Sergio Azuero, Inter. Milan’s Diego Milito, Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez and Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain. Again, Diego Maradona, the former world’s best player is the team’s  coach. Maradona is bent on winning the World Cup”, he stated.

“Not to worry about stars studded team. France was stars studded when they were beaten by Senegal. It has to do with commitment of the players and the ability of the coach to read matches. In a match like the one between Nigeria and Argentina, either team can win.

Besides, Argentina has always found it difficult to win Nigeria. It is always on a narrow margin. It must be said that in Atlanta 1996, Nigeria beat both Brazil and Argentina to win the Olympic gold medal in soccer. So you can’t write Nigeria off, football is full of surprises,” he further noted.

Also speaking, Mr. Endurance Akpelu, a sports lover said that the Super Eagles match against Argentina would be a novelty football match in favour of the Argentines, if Nigerians do not put their acts together.

According to him, “the odds favour Argentina. Argentinas is a favourite to win the World Cup. The Argentine have all it takes to beat Nigeria but the only thing that can make the difference for Nigeria is the team spirit.

Since Nigeria knows she does not have world-class players, like Argentina, the only thing it can do is to play as a team. There must be commitment on the part of  the players themselves. I think the coach has a lot to do too. His game plan against the South Americans can make the difference. I believe that Lars Largerback is a good coach with lots of experience, he will do well.”

Mr. Akpelu remarked that the Super Eagles, despite their abysmal performance at the African Cup of Nations could spring surprises, and stun the world. “They have to take their games with commitment they deserve,” he noted.

“Though the odds, no doubt favour Argentina, this is the first World Cup that is played on the African soil, so you see Africa must make an impact. Football is big business and African nations at the World Cup must be ready for the business.

Mr. Akpelu, who is an Arsenal fan said he was optimistic that Africa could take the world by storm, if only its representatives at the mundial would show commitment and resilience.

The football enthusiast pointed out there was no need to be jittery about playing Argentina since Nigeria had even defeated her at the Olympic Games in 1996.

He charged the Super Eagles to do business on the field of play on Saturday as they faced the South American opponents and noted that despite Argentina’s world class players, the team was beatable. He urged Nigerians to pray for the team and give it all the necessary support it deserves to do well in South Africa.

Super Eagles defender, Danny Shittu, who spoke with The Weekend Tide source recently showed optimism that the Eagles could beat Argentina.

According to him, “we are not here (South Africa) to be a footnote in the story of Argentina,” he dismissed fears about the fluidity of Messi and noted that he could be checkmated.

A former Super Eagles International, Henry Wosu, who spoke with our correspondent recently also warned that the national team had a long way to go at the World Cup.

To him, the Super Eagles was not yet splendid for the World Cup. According to him, “the defence is still a problem, which the coach has not found solution. A defensive blunder caused the goal the Koreans had in the second half. It was almost clear that there was a lack of communications between the defenders and this occurred many times in the game.

“Another problem was the build-up to attack. The Eagles are yet to get a way of feeding the attackers through the midfield. There were periods the midfield would lose the ball and this could be a big problem if we face a side with fast attackers,” Wosu said.

“The defence is suspect. If the coach can find a way to boost the defensive midfield and the full backs, then we will have little to fear,” he further stated.

Also speaking, Mr. Friday Ogbugo, a football lover opined that the odds favour Argentina  but pointed out the odds do not play football always.

Mr. Ogbugo, who is also an educationist, said that Nigeria could spring a surprise on Argentina, despite its array of players.

According to Mr. Ogbugo, “it is the third time in 16 years that Nigeria will be meeting with Argentina in the group phase of the World Cup. In 1994, Diego Maradona (head coach) inspired the Argies to a 2-1 win over Nigeria in America.

He pointed out that in 2002, Gabriela Bastituta scored a lone goal to give to Argies victory against Nigeria but noted that Nigeria swept to a historic Olympic football gold at the expense of the Argies in 1996, also in America.

The educationist noted that in football, many things come into play and pointed out that all hope was not lost on the match between Argentina and Nigeria.

He said there was no doubt, that with the quality of players in the Argenatina’s team, the odds favoured them but anything was possible in the game of football.

He said with the quality of players and coach, the Argies were the favourite. But when they meet the Super Eagles, it won’t be that easy”, he stated.

“We need to pray for the success of the Eagles because; luck is an element in the game of soccer. Again, the Coach’s game plan will count, so Coach Lars Lagerback is a good Coach. We can count on his experience to do well in the encounter, Nigeria is a big team in Africa and the World. No nation would take Nigeria for granted in football. At the youth championship, we have also done very well.

Also speaking, Miss Ngozi Ordu, a Mass Communication student of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology Port Harcourt said she believed that despite the fact that Argentina is a big team, Nigeria would win at the end of the day.

Miss Ordu, who is a fan of Arsenal, noted that everything depended on the pattern of play of the teams.

She said that the Super Eagles should remain focused despite the fact that they were playing against Lionel Messi, the world’s best footballer.

According to her, “team work would be needed in situation where the Super Eagles don’t have world class player.”

The Etche-born Arsenal fan remarked that what the players needed to excel was the support of all Nigerians. She urged Nigerians to pray for the Super Eagles at this crucial period of their campaign in South Africa.

She stated that the 2010 edition of the World Cup would be quite interesting as it was the first in the African continent.

Also speaking, Miss Temedie Doumiete a student on Chamber attachment at Celestine Omehia and Associates Port Harcourt, said ‘though the Super Eagles had no world class player, cohesion would be an advantage at the World Cup.

“Our players are also in Europe, football is team work. We cannot write off our players they are playing against the likes of Messi, Milito and Aguero, it will be a battle of the titans. I know that that the Argies won’t write the Super Eagles off because they have had encounters with them. Luck may play to the either side,” she said.

The law student, who believes in the Super Eagles said that she was optimistic that Super Eagles would rise to the occasion and pointed out that no team was unbeatable.

She said that the performance of the Super Eagles during the African Cup of Nations should not be used as a yardstick to rate the Super Eagles and described Coach Amodu, the former Eagles Coach as inexperienced and blamed the team’s abysmal performance on him.

Miss Temedie said she could count on the experience of Coach Lars Lagerback, who had taken his home country to the World Cup and explained that in 2002, World Cup, Coach Largerback’s team beat the Super Eagles.

She expressed hope that the Eagles team under Lagerback would go places as the team had continued to improve by every match.

Miss Temedie canvassed support for the Super Eagles and noted that the semi-final target set for the team at the mundial by the nation’s football authorities was reachable.

According to her, “one thing that brings our people together is the Super Eagles. The team will do well.

 

Chidi  Enyie