Super Eagles chief coach, Stephen Keshi, was right when he told the Nigerian Football Federation to be realistic when he was asked to ensure that Nigeria gets to the Semi-final stage of the World Cup in Brazil.
Keshi educated the officials by telling them that the World Cup tournament featured the best footballing countries in the world and not a single country participating at the tournament should be underestimated.
Keshi spoke before the draws were made last Friday when Nigerians discovered that the Super Eagles will be playing against Iran, Bosnia-Herzgovinia and Argentina in Group F. Despite the relief felt by Nigerians, Keshi’s caution still cannot be ignored. For instance in the latest FIFA ranking, Bosnia-Herzgovinia is ranked 21 ahead of Nigeria’s 36 so we have no reasons to believe our match against them will be a walk-over.
Iran on the other hand is ranked 45 but this is still no indication that we can easily win our match against them.
Having considered other strengths like experience and exposure of players, however, many leading European football analysts predict that Argentina and Nigeria would qualify from that group.
These football analysts also believe that if Argentina tops the group they have a clear route to the semi-finals.
Nigeria on the other hand may be heading towards the quarter-final stage if the players and the NFF get their acts together and that is a big ‘IF’.
Assuming Nigeria qualifies in second place from the group we would be meeting the winners of group E, most likely France or Switzerland.
It’s not entirely impossible for Switzerland to emerge as winners of Group E and face Nigeria in the Round of Sixteen.
Again, I’m not saying it will be a walk over because Switzerland shocked the world when they beat eventual champions, Spain, 1-0 at the 2010 World Cup and hopefully for them Fulham’s Sanderos, formerly of Arsenal, will remain fit. Apart from that, Switzerland now have the best ever team they have assembled in history.
What I’m saying is that it could have been Brazil, Spain or Germany but thankfully it’s not. Its only Switzerland.
The other likely opponent, France, shouldn’t be a threat either. Let’s face it, the glory days of France are over. The days of Henry, Deschamps, Barthez and Patrick Vierra are over. Nigeria should be able to hold its own against France should we meet them at the second round of the competition.
It’s not impossible for Nigeria to qualify for the quarter-final stage of the World Cup for the first time in Brazil.
It’s at that stage that we are likely to meet the German machine or Christiano Ronaldo’s Portugal or worse still, the star studded Belgian national team and almost certain to be sent packing from the competition.
Caveat: It would be completely unwise for anyone to stake money on the accuracy of the predictions above as the variables are too numerous.