– With the adequate preparation the Eagles should overcome Algeria in their next World Cup tie in Uyo
IT PROMISEs to be one of the most thrilling preliminary round matches of the African Zone of Russia 2008 World Cup Finals. That is the game that comes up in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital on November 12, when the Super Eagles of Nigeria who will be playing their 50th World Cup qualifying home matches take on the Fennecs of Algeria at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium. For the Eagles, a victory for them is imperative to enable them consolidate their leadership position of the group [ Group B] that also has Cameroon and Zambia. Their maiden outing in their group in Ndola on October 9 was full of pleasant surprise when they prevailed over Zambia, even with the poorest of preparations, but with the Nigerians coming out of the tie with a flattering 2-1 away from home win . While the Nigerians were savoring their rare away from home World Cup win, the Algerians, rated by FIFA as Africa’s number two side were struggling against being defeated by the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon at home. The game ended 1-1 thereby jolting their qualification chances from the group referred by analysts of as ‘the group of death.” These developments did not go down with the Algerians. Milovan Rajevac , who was their coach was relieved of his appointment as a result of a revolt by his players. It is therefore understandable why the contest in Uyo promises to be thrilling. While the visiting Algerians will require an outright win to keep their hope alive in the prized contest, the Eagles will equally need the game to enable them have more points in their kitty, before the matches enter critical stages towards the last phase of the group matches. For the Nigerians, it is good to make hay while the sun shines. The Algerians for now are talking with so much optimism about beating Nigeria in Uyo. The Algerian camp has stepped up its psychological war against Nigeria, of course by employing the media with the promise that they will overcome Nigeria when the two sides engage in what promises to be a titanic battle in Uyo. Their present coach who once served as Nigeria’s handler, Philippe Troussier, won the race to replace sacked Milovan Rajevac as coach of Algeria, after promising the Algerian FA that he will beat Nigeria. Algeria sacked Serbian coach Rajevac after drawing 1-1 at home in their first 2018 World Cup qualifiers tie. A result that made the players revolt and subsequently led to the sack of the coach, just three months and three games into his tenure as coach. The FA resorted to appointing a coach who has experience of the African terrain in Troussier, who has handled Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, South Africa and Morocco, aside spells with various club sides on the continent. Frenchman Troussier reportedly told representatives of the Algerian FA during his interview for the job, that his knowledge of African football and Nigeria in particular will come handy in Uyo, when both sides meet on the November 12 debacle. He reportedly promised the FA that he won’t lose the game to Nigeria, if appointed coach of the team. He also went a step further in boasting that his wealth of experience on the African continent will help Algeria beat Cameroon when they meet again. If Troussier made his intention known in boardroom, one of Algeria’s foremost soccer legends, Lakdar Belloumi is not hiding his feelings about his country’s chances against Nigeria. The 57year old former international is drawing his confidence from the feat of his side 35 years ago when Les Fennecs stunned Nigeria 2-1 in Lagos enroute to qualifying for the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain. Belloumi, who was a member of the squad, as well as the “golden generation “ of the country’s soccer had other star players like Rabah Madjer, Sallah Assad, Skipper Ali Fergani; Diamel Menad, Mustapha Kouci, etc. Belloum believes that “winning on November 12 is certainly not impossible “for Algeria if they play to their strength. “ According to the former international, who spoke to fifa. com, “Algeria have a great footballing history. We’ve defeated Nigeria more than once. We beat them on their own part in 1981 and in Libya in 1982. My message to Riyad Mahrez and co , therefore is winning on November 12 is certainly not impossible.” For Belloumi,”we will win if we impose our style of play [on them]. Our team is powerful and united, and with a little bit of desire and heart, we can return home with three points in the bag. “He said that contrary to the thinking of pundits, his team will not be under pressure when the two sides clash in Uyo. “On the contrary, I believe the Nigerians will be the ones under pressure as there’re at home, and playing in front of their own fans” he said. Moses Kpakor, a former Nigeria’s international, who previously played a number of games against Algeria in his days with the Super Eagles disagreed with Belloumi and Troussier.In an interview with the Nigerian Pilot Sports, Kpakor said though he has not been quite comfortable with the present squad of the Nigerian team because of their unpredictability in their form, their victory over Zambia in Ndola has put them on driving seat in their group. For the Benue-born former player who is now studying for his Masters at the Benue State University, Makurdi, “The win in Zambia is good for our boys because it has put them in control. They should now play like a team in control.” Kpakor urged the Eagles to display commitment and patriotism, which he said would see them overcome their opponents from North Africa. Reacting to Belloumi’s remarks that the Nigerians would be under pressure when they take on his boys in Uyo on November 12, the former Nigeria’s international said the Algerian was just trying to put his boys at a psychological advantage. “Algerians will be the ones that will be under pressure because our boys are at advantage over them with two points ahead of them. Even if our boys play a draw with them, they will remain top of the group” he said. Kpakor added that the Eagles have advantage over the Algerians because they have not lost to the North Africans in the last 35 years. The former international is right when it comes to World Cup preliminary matches. Apart from the October 10 1981 0-2 loss to the North Africans at the National Stadium in Surulere ,Lagos, the Nigerians have been taking the pound off the flesh of the North Africans. The star studded Nigeria’s 1994 World Cup squad of the golden generation of players like Rashidi Yekini, Emmanuel Amuneke, Samson Siasia, Uche Okechukwu, Daniel Amokachi, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, etc defeated Algeria 4-1 in Lagos on July 3, 1994 , before proceeding to Algiers to tie 1-1 with their hosts, enabling them to earn the ticket for their first World Cup final appearance. On July 3, 2002, in one of the qualifying matches for 2006 Germany World Cup finals Nigeria prevailed over the North Africans 1-0 at home ; while the Eagles went on to beat them in Constantine 2-5. It is not only Kpakor that is quite hopeful of a glorious outing for the Nigerians in Uyo. Brown Ideye, one of Nigeria’s most promising hit men, said he and his colleagues will have no excuse not to beat Algeria in the Uyo tie. He said recently on Supersports: “It will be a good game .It is a game we have to prove to Nigerians that we can beat Algeria. There won’t be any excuses for not beating Algeria. Algeria will fall; I can promise you that , especially with the support of my colleagues.” Another asset of the Eagles could be their new coach. The Eagles new FrancoGerman manager, Gernot Rohr is gradually proving that he is the real man for the job. Not many people were enamoured when the German was named coach of the Nigerian team in August, but his approach to the job, with results coming in, is winning him to soccer followers in the country and possibly elsewhere. His decision to recall Victor Moses[Chelsea] and Odion Ighalo[ Watford] will no doubt present a more formidable Eagles for the game at hand.