Now it is a pride salvaging time as Super Eagles of Nigeria seek a pride for both Nigeria and Africa as a whole putting the nation’s ego at high risk.
Playing for continental as well as national pride against South Korea this evening, the Super Eagles have seen a dangled carrot as Nigeria Football Federation has hiked their stake pushing up a remuneration package just to spur Eagles to at least a win in the on-going tournament.
The six African teams have so far managed one win in 12 matches and even the one victor, Ghana, are by no means certain of progressing.
Nigeria have lost to Argentina and Greece, but victory in the Moses Mabhida Stadium against South Korea will see them through to the second round on goal difference if Argentina beat Greece in Polokwane.
“We need a fresh start,” Lars Lagerback, their Swedish coach, said. “We will do that by beating South Korea.” That Sani Kaita has received a thousand death threats since being dismissed against Greece increases the pressure on South Korea, but they will progress if they avoid defeat and match or better Greece’s score. In extremis, the coach, Huh Jung-Moo said he will throw Ahn Jung-hwan into the fray even though the player whose goal beat Italy in the 2002 finals is not fully fit following injury.
And for Manager Lars Lagerback, it is a real mission of career and credibility redemption as Super Eagles face the impossible task of turning around its fate.
The Super Eagle Coach is one of the most respected Managers in the world but the circumstances by which he took over the National team in less than six months before World Cup kick off had almost exonerated him from major persecution.
But the price for his taking over the national flag bearer will leave him with no excuses as the agreement before he signed the contract would have forced him to crave for at least a win in the on-going tournament or even push Nigeria to a credible stage.
The Super Eagles’ fate hangs on the duel with South Korea which comes up on Tuesday. The big question is, can the Eagles turn its fate round and grab a place in the last 16? Is it possible to come from behind and make an impact in 2010 World Cup?
Mike Lipka, Stat’s Writer :
“Neither South Korea nor Nigeria had much to be happy about following its second Group B match, but there may be a lot to look forward to for either nation if it can win Tuesday’s opening-round finale.
Without a point through two games, Nigeria still could advance to the round of 16 with a victory, but the Taeguk Warriors will also be pushing for a win that would all but assure them a spot in the knockout stage.
South Korea’s 2-0 win over Greece on June 12 has the team in good position even after Thursday’s 4-1 loss to powerful Argentina, which leads the group with six points”.
Already, a desperate South Korea have declared they are not interested in playing for a draw against Nigeria, but will go for an outright victory that would seal their place in the second round of the World Cup.
The South Koreans, bidding to reach the second round for only the second time in eight World Cups, kicked off their group campaign with a 2-0 win over Greece, but then crashed 4-1 to Argentina to leave them second in Group B.
Nigeria staggered from an opening 1-0 defeat to the Argentinians to a crucial 2-1 loss at the hands of the Greeks, who meet table-topping Argentina in their final group match, also on Tuesday.
So for the Koreans, it all hinges on their final group game against Nigeria.
“We must win to get to the second round,” said Gwangju Phoenix central midfielder Kim Jung-Woo.
“Some people are talking about a draw being enough, but we want to win.
“We must try not to concede a goal, especially early on, and we’ll have to be highly organised from the very start to the finish.”
Kim acknowledged that the Super Eagles represented a tough physical challenge, but added that he thought the South Koreans were up to it.
“We’ll try to be as strong as possible and win all the duels,” he said, also playing down the fact that it was his country’s first evening match in South Africa.
“We’re professional footballers with experience of playing at this time in our leagues. It’s not really a worry.”
Kim added that the Koreans would try to press down the Nigerians’ flanks as much as possible.
“Our strikers and wingers are fast, and with their speed we can break down Nigeria. When they have the ball we’ll press to regain the ball and attack.”
Lee Young-Pyo, the left full-back who plays for Saudi club Al-Hilal, said the Koreans had done their homework.
“We’ve prepared long enough for this game, the last in our group stage,” Lee said.
*Argentina need a solitary point from their final game with Greece to make absolutely sure of a place in the last 16 at South Africa 2010, although they can afford to lose if the result of the Korea Republic-Nigeria match goes their way.
Though the battle for second place looks to be between the Greeks and South Koreans, a point-less Nigeria side could yet squeeze through too. FIFA.com looks at the situation in Group B and runs through all the possible denouements.
1. Argentina: 6 pts; GD +4; five goals scored.
2. Greece: 3 pts; GD -1; two goals scored.
3. Korea Republic: 3 pts; GD -1; three goals scored.
4. Nigeria: 0 pts; GD -2; one goal scored.
Nigeria-Korea Republic, 22 June, Durban, 20.30.
Greece-Argentina, 22 June, Polokwane, 20.30.
According to the Regulations of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, the ranking of each team in each group will be determined as follows:
a) greatest number of points obtained in all group matches;
b) goal difference in all group matches;
c) greatest number of goals scored in all group matches.
If two or more teams are equal on the basis of the above three criteria, their rankings will be determined as follows:
d) greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned;
e) goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned;
f) greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned;
g) drawing of lots by the FIFA Organising Committee.
– If Argentina beat Greece and Korea Republic beat or draw with Nigeria, Argentina finish top and Korea Republic second.
– If Argentina beat Greece and Korea Republic lose to Nigeria, Argentina finish top with second place going to the side with the best goal difference out of Greece, Korea Republic or Nigeria.
– If Argentina draw with Greece and Nigeria beat Korea Republic, Argentina finish top and Greece second.
– If Argentina draw with Greece and Korea Republic beat Nigeria, Argentina finish top and Korea Republic second.
– If Greece beat Argentina and Korea Republic beat Nigeria, first and second places will go to the sides with the best goal difference out of Argentina, Korea Republic and Greece.
– If both matches end in draws, Argentina finish top with second place going to either Greece or Korea Republic (as both Greece and Korea Republic will have the same goal difference, second place will go to the side scoring the greater number of goals in all group matches).
– If Greece beat Argentina and Korea Republic fail to beat Nigeria, then Argentina and Greece go through with goal difference deciding who finishes top.
If the Super Eagles eventually exit on Tuesday, Lars Lagerback would have faced an array of criticism, considering his contract price. The Nigeria Football Federation would be facing a press assault as they have been given the responsibility with the aim of delivering.
Definitely, an exit will be sparking off a new era of ill- feelings against both the Presidential task force and Lars Largerback. For all these reasons put together, Super eagles must perform and bring a little honour to Nigeria.
However, if the Eagles refuse to fly, the main victim of the failure will clearly emerge as the billions of Naira committed to the cause which could be yielding no result as a result of Eagle’ failure. Fly Eagles, please fly and give Africa and Nigeria a pride.