BY TAOFEEK LAWAL, Abuja
As the football community wait with bated breath to know which country faces the other for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, a former lawmaker, Honourable Godfrey Gaiya, has prayed for a favourable draw for the country’s senior national football team, the Super Eagles.
Gaiya, who was a former chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Sports during the 6th and the 7th National Assembly said Nigerians can only hope and pray that the Coach Gernot Rohr-led Eagles will get a favourable draw that will set them on a good pedestal to make a landmark when the World Cup gets started in June 2018.
He said it is time for Nigeria to break the second-round jinx at the football tournament and surpass the record created by African football power houses like Cameroon at Italia ’90, Senegal at Korea/Japan 2002 and Ghana at Germany 2006.
Gaiya said, “At our World Cup debut in 1994, we proved to the world that we possessed the qualities and the players to play at the highest level of football. Our players showed commitment it was only a costly error that stopped us from beating the Italian national team inspired by Roberto Baggio. We were naïve may be because it was our first time at that level of football. But with five World Cup appearances in the kitty and now going to sixth, we have had enough experience and it is time for us to put that to use and create a lasting impression at the World Cup like we did at the football tournament of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the United States.”
But to me, the most important now is for us to get a favourable draw that will see us move to the second round with ease and possibly get a relative easy team in the second round. I know when we get to the bridge we shall cross it. But if the draws happen the other way round; it means we must gird our loins and get friendlies that will put on in good shape for the World Cup. I trust Coach Gernot Rohr and his boys to represent Nigeria and I expect the leadership of the Nigeria Football federation (NFF) to give them the necessary support. Let the world know that our qualification for the World Cup was not a fluke and that being the first African country to qualify was because of hardwork,” he added.
Meanwhile, Nigeria Coach Gernot Rohr says he is calm and collected and that the Super Eagles have no fear of any team, 24 hours before Friday’s Final Draw for the 21st FIFA World Cup finals.
Speaking from the Crowne Plaza World Trade Centre, Moscow the morning after he landed in the Russian capital for the showpiece event, Rohr told thenff.com that there is no weak squad in the 32-team field, and anyone hoping to play so –called ‘average teams’ in the group phase is only guilty of wishful thinking.
“All the teams that are in the final draw, except the host nation Russia, played qualifying matches. They all emerged from tough encounters and therefore, none can be tagged ‘weak.’
“In the next 24 hours, we will enter the State Kremlin Palace for the final draw and a couple of hours later, everyone will know their opponents. There is no apprehension. If you must be listed among the best, you have to conquer the better teams and even beat some of the best.”
Nigeria emerged from a truly tough qualifying group, which included three teams that were among Africa’s five flag –bearers at the 2014 World Cup, and the other – Zambia – having won the Africa Cup of Nations only few years before. All were former Africa Cup champions, and Cameroon were even the Cup holders.
Nigeria has been seeded in pot 4 alongside Serbia, Panama, Morocco, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
“Seriously speaking, every team has the right to dream. But we have our heads on our shoulders and our feet on the ground, and whatever draw comes, we will take it one match at a time.”
Friday’s Final Draw at the State Kremlin Palace will start at 6pm Moscow time (4pm Nigeria time).