Aiming to soar higher

You don’t normally expect scores such as 76-0 and 67-0 in football. Except in Nigeria, that is.

Last year, in the Nigerian league, Plateau United Feeders beat Akurba FC 76-0 and Police Machine defeated Babayaro FC 67-0 in matches played at the same time. All those four teams, under a cloud of match-fixing, were suspended.

Disturbingly, Nigeria’s national team too has figured in such scandals. The team’s 2-2 draw with Scotland in a friendly international in London, just a fortnight before the big kick-off in Brazil, was probed by the police.

The Super Eagles will be keen to put such incidents behind them as they aim to put up their best ever performance, in what is their fifth appearance in the last six World Cups. In their first two, in 1994 and1998, they had reached the knock-out stage. They qualified for Brazil without much fuss, finishing unbeaten in the Confederation of African Football section.

Reaching Brazil is job only half-done for the Eagles, who want to soar higher than any African nation ever did in a World Cup.

Stephen Keshi’s boys are expected to at least advance from Group ‘F’, behind the mighty Argentina and ahead of debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran. They should be confident too, having won the Africa Cup of Nations last year.

Emmanuel Emenike of Fenerbahce had played a key role in that triumph, with four goals. Nigeria expects him to fire in Brazil too, in the company of Liverpool’s Victor Moses. Ahmed Musa of CSKA Moscow, Uche Nwofor of VVV-Venlo and Newcastle’s Shola Ameobi sharpen the attack, which is further bolstered by the return of Stoke City’s Peter Odemwingie.

There is class in the midfield too, in the form of John Obi Mikel (Chelsea) and Ogenyi Onazi (Lazio).

The defence would be handled by Godfrey Oboabona (Caykur Rizespor), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesborough), Efe Ambrose (Celtic) and the vastly experienced Joseph Yobo (Fenerbahce) and they could breathe a bit easier in the belief that the bankable Vincent Enyeama (Lille) is behind them, under the bar.