–Former Nigeria goalkeeper Peter Rufai insists Eagles can reach World Cup final
Pre-World Cup Friendly Matches
The Super Eagles played three major build-up games going into the World Cup. These games I must say marked the first phase of their real preparation towards the World Cup, though our own World Cup starts next Monday when we take on Iran. Looking at the team’s performances in the three games, I would say for different reasons that the team did well.
For instance, against Scotland, which though ended goalless, the players were coming together for the first time after a very long time. There were also some new players like Osaze Odemwingie who tried to impress to convince Nigerians that yes, he’s still the Osaze we used to know. There was also Joseph Yobo who wanted to prove why people clamoured for his recall.
You also saw the likes of Uche Nwofor and Michael Uchebo trying to play themselves into the hearts of Nigerians. Of course, Nwofor did well enough to tie the game for us when he scored the late equalizer. Then came the second game, against Greece. Everyone knows that Greece is a strong power in World football. They are like the Italians, the more they play, the more you find it difficult to understand what they are doing. Our players tried to fight and get into the final 23-man squad list.
And having done that, the game against USA became a routine. Yes, routine in the sense that having made the list, it’s important to stay away from injury so that you don’t miss the World Cup at this stage on account of injury as was the case with Elderson Echiejile. So I think that some how made the players play safe, and with caution against USA. I would say those friendly games marked the real first segment of their preparation. Now they are in Brazil. Between the time of the match against USA and when they will play Iran in their first match in Brazil is very crucial, that’s the second and important period of their preparation for the World Cup.
Elderson Injury And UzoenyiAs Replacement
I strongly believe that the Super Eagles have a very bright prospect at the World Cup.
This may sound funny to many who would want to estimate the strength and potential of the team on account of the results of their friendly games. Some will also question the wisdom of Keshi in replacing defender Elderson Echiejile winger Ejike Uzoenyi.
Let me tell you, much as I regret Echiejile’s injury, I also believe that Uzoenyi is a perfect choice. He is acombative player, good on both right and left flanks and can also be drafted into the middle of the field if occasion demands. He’s an explosive player and I think him coming in at this time is very good. If Osaze operates from the right, Ejike will come from the left so his inclusion brings balance into the squad. He is strong, mobile and shoots well too.
Players’ demand for appearance fee
I’ve heard a lot about the meeting between the players representatives, captain Joseph
Yobo and John Obi Mikel, with NFF leadership over what they (players) should earn as World Cup appearance fee. Some even say this is not proper and will divide the team. It’s not true, I’ve been in the national team in the past and I know that it’s pl ayers’ right. It’s normal for the players and officials to talk, agree on such issues as bonus before the World Cup. Spain have settled theirs few months ago and I’m sure other countries will follow suit. I don’t see this as an issue that people should be worried about, I don’t see it as an issue that can bring disunity in the team and I’m happy the captain Yobo has come out to say it was a mutual meeting between the players and NFF.
It’s a nice thing they sorted this thing out at this point before the world Cup. When the World Cup starts, its all about how we can win games and not about what should be paid to who which is to me, a distraction at that time.
Brazil 2014 World Cup Target
I’ve said earlier that this team has a very bright prospect at the World Cup not minding what many take as poor results in pre World Cup matches. My honest expectation or target is for the team to reach the final and possibly bring the cup home. They can do it, the more they progress, the more they play with cohesion, the more their confidence come out. Let me draw your mind back to our first World Cup in USA in 1994, if not for the mistake we made against Italy, in our round of 16 game, we could have reached the final, or at least, the semi final. Its possible, afterall, Bulgaria, a team we beat 3-0 in our group game, went on to play in the semi final. One unique thing about Nigerian teams is that they go from strength to strength, game after game. And I foresee it happening again in Brazil.