BY KUNLE SOLAJA
On form, current standing, FIFA ranking, available talents and home advantage, it is very reasonable for any football analyst to conclude that the Nigerian Super Eagles are at the cusp of getting the eternal leadership of the Group C of the Qatar World Cup qualifiers.
All they need in the Tuesday’s home match with Cape Verde is just to avoid a defeat – just a draw – and they will make it to the final playoff.
Sometimes, such a result is difficult to achieve as it has the possibility of producing lethargic form by the concerned team.
The wordings in the New International Version of 1Corinthians 10:12 is very instructive. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”
Recent happenings tend to lend credence to this. But for the howler by Cape Verde defender Kenny Rochas Santos, who inexplicably looped a back pass over his out of position goalkeeper to give Nigeria a 2-1 away win last September, the standing on the Group C would have taken a different colouration.
Having just to draw the Tuesday match and with Cape Verde requiring a win could see the visitors being more adventurous, leading to panicky display by the home side and extending the tension till the final blast of the whistle.
A recent happening is in Europe where Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal have found themselves at the wrong side of the World Cup qualifiers.
They now stand a risk of missing out at Qatar 2022 having to pass through the lottery of European playoff.
Yet all they required in the weekend’s match with Serbia was a draw. They went ahead; Serbia levelled up and then scored a late winner to the displeasure of the favourites, Portugal.
That is a lesson for the Super Eagles who about this time last year squandered a 4-0 lead against Sierra Leone at home and ended with a 4-4 draw!
Last month, with their home game with Central African Republic looking like heading for a barren draw, a last minute counter-attack by the visitors produced the biggest shock and Nigeria’s first home defeat in a World Cup qualifier in 40 years.
That is a lesson that in competitive game of this nature, nothing should be taken for granted.
Yet another example in the on-going qualifiers is that of South Africa who on Sunday had the most painful exit in the African qualifiers.
They tied on 13 points with Ghana and shared the same goal difference. They were eliminated by the penalty kick goal which enabled Ghana score one more goal than the six accumulated in the series by South Africa.
All South Africa required from the game was a draw, just like that of Benin in the match with DR Congo and Portugal in the game with Serbia in Europe.
Benin would have advanced instead of DR Congo if they had drawn on Sunday. Nigeria is in a similar situation. A win should be the objective of the Super Eagles while at the same time tidying up their lethargic defence.