By James Agberebi:
Former Super Eagles defender Nduka Ugbade has dismissed Zambia as a threat to Nigeria’s 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers aspirations, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
Zambia shocked Algeria 1-0 away on matchday four of the qualifiers on Tuesday to get to seven points and close the gap on the Super Eagles to three points.
The only goal of the game was scored by Patson Daka in the 67th minute.
The defeat means Algeria alongside Cameroon have been eliminated from the race to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Despite Zambia’s shock win against Algeria, Ugbade posited that the Eagles who will host Zambia on matchday five in Uyo on October 7, will do enough to secure the needed result to clinch Group B’s sole ticket.
“The most important thing is that we have not lost any match and we have beaten Zambia away and on head-to-head we are ahead. I don’t see the possibility of Nigeria losing their two remaining matches against Zambia and Algeria.,” Ugbade, who was in the Eagles team that drew 1-1 with Algeria away in 1993 to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in USA, told completesportsnigeria.com.
“However, the match against Zambia will be pretty difficult, even harder than the one against Cameroon because anxiety will play a lot of role and the pschological balance between cooling down and finding just one goal which will be a problem on its own. And the question of Zambia coming to say ‘since we’ve beaten Algeria at home, there is the possibility that Nigeria can also be beaten at home’.
“Having said all this, what will happen is that Nigeria will score and score again because one thing I know about Nigeria after representing them from the youth to the senior team, when there is a need for something, Nigeria is always able to pull it. And the game against Cameroon in Uyo was a very good example. That the African champions can be beaten 4-0 and were even lucky to come out with a draw at home. I very much believe that Zambia will be at the mercy of Nigeria and also Algeria will be at the mercy of Nigeria.”
On the disappointing performance of both Cameroon and Algeria in the qualifiers, the 1994 Tunisia Africa Cup of Nations winner described it as a phase which every country goes through.
He added: “We all know in life, there are periods of ups and downs. There was a time when Nigeria used to be the almighty nation in Africa, qualifying for every competition. But just recently, we have failed to qualify for back-to-back Cup of Nations. So every nation will always face ups and downs.
“And moreso when there is problem with the Football Association of that country, it affects performance on the pitch because it the Football Association that helps to encourage and motivate the players to perform.”