The Group Managing Director of Complete Communications Limited, Alhaji Mumini Alao, has tipped Nigeria to qualify along with two-time world champions Argentina from their tough group at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Nigeria, who will be making their sixth appearance at the tournament which kicks off on 14 June, will also face Croatia and Iceland in Group D.
Alao, in an interview with Lagos-based sports radio station Brila FM on Wednesday, expressed his satisfaction at the level of preparation of the Super Eagles for the World Cup.
“The preparations of the Super Eagles have been excellent so far,” Alao told Brila FM.
“I was listening to the captain of the team Mikel Obi and he said the most valuable player in the team was the coach Gernot Rohr and I agree with him completely. Because we must not forget where we are coming from.
“Just few years ago we failed to qualify for two successive Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, but since Rohr came we qualified for the FIFA World Cup with a relatively young team and it’s admirable the kind of backing the players have got from the Nigeria Football Federation in terms of arranging friendly games and players bonuses well ahead of time.
“I can’t remember the last time a Super Eagles team was this prepared. The bonus issue was sorted out well ahead of the World Cup. And these are issues that create problems. So all those have been sorted out the. Transportation, hotels and the rest.
“And we have quality friendly matches. We’ve played four and two more coming before the finals proper. So everthing put together I think this has been a well planned World Cup qualification and well planned World Cup preparations and I give all the credit to the coach Gernot Rohr.
“A team that have Lionel Messi should not be written off. Argentina are one of the powerhouses in world football even if they struggled to qualify.
“I believe Nigeria and Argentina will qualify but I must admit it’s going to be difficult against Croatia with the calibre of players in their midfield.
“But you don’t surrender to defeat before the war. So I think that Rohr will fashion out a game plan to beat Croatia and Iceland.”
The seasoned journalist also admitted that the Super Eagles have weaknesses heading to the 2018 FIFA World Cup which must be solved when they intensify training in Austria.
“I think we have grey areas in two positions, the goal and in the midfield. Since Carl Ikeme fell ill we’ve not been able to decide on our No.1 goalkeeper although in the last few matches it seems Rohr is settling for Francis Uzoho which is fine but I think it’s a big gamble, anyway which other alternatives do we have?
“Ikechukwu Ezenwa was in goal for the rest of the qualifiers and maybe he was not too convincing and that’s why Rohr brought in Uzoho into the team.
“We can only keep our fingers crossed and hope our goalkeepers don’t commit the kind of blunders the Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Kairus committed in the UEFA Champions League final.
“In the midfield I think we have some slight problems in terms of our creativity. We have good defensive midfielders in the likes of Wilfred Ndidi and Ogenyi Onazi with his experience. But the creative aspect we are lacking a bit there.
“Since the exit of Nwankwo Kanu and Jay Jay Okocha we’ve not been able to solve that problem. I think that is something we need to solve within this short period of time.
“Otherwise, I think our defence has improved; we didn’t concede lots of goals. I think the forwards will deliver the goods.”
He also stated that he was not surprised at the exclusion of Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi from the Argentina squad.
“They have big players and can afford that,” he noted.
“They have quality players to pick from they are the big fish in our group.”
Alao also explained reasons why Nigeria’s pioneer and largest-selling sports daily Complete Sports will go on sale for N100 from June 1.
“We have a special World Cup edition of Complete Football already on newsstands and it’s richly packaged. For Complete Sports, we’re actually making a big move beginning from the 1st of June,” he explained.
“For so long now, Complete Sports has sold for N50 cover price and that has been since 2010. But we all know what has happened between then and now with increases in the cost of virtually everything.
“In fact, I’m sure you can’t get a N50 loaf of bread these days. Over the years, we’ve managed to subsidise the price of Complete Sports but at this point we can’t do it anymore. Prices of all the consumables like newsprint, plate, ink, everything has gone up. Diesel, of course we know. So the challenges are so much that we felt rather than allow Complete Sports to just die off, we have to go back to our readers to say ‘we’ve subsidised this paper for so long and we can’t go on anymore’.
“So we have to go to N100 cover price so that we can at least cover a larger chunk of our costs so that the paper can continue to provide services in terms of entertainment and information. We’re relying on our readers, we’re relying on their trust, we’re relying on their loyalty to pick it at that price knowing that they’ll still get value for their money.
“Our readers will certainly get value. Already we have somebody in London for the England, Nigeria friendly and we’re going to have two reporters in Russia to report LIVE the World Cup. We’re prepared all the way to the World Cup. We also have ex-internationals who happen to serve as analysts. We have Victor Ikpeba, Mutiu Adepoju, my humble self and Segun Odegbami who will be part of our team of analysts all through the tournament doing pre- and post-match analysis and providing expert opinion. We have a great package that will be even worth more than the N100 price we’re asking readers to pay.”