The Super Eagles of Nigeria landed in Russia for the 2018 World Cup on Monday.
The competition kicks off on June 14 with Nigeria playing their first game on June 16.
This is the first time any Nigerian team has so been prepared for a tournament.
Having paid off all their match bonuses, the Gernot Rohr tutored side had played warn-up matches with top countries such as Argentina, Serbia, Poland, England and the Czech Republic.
Nigeria’s kits were also voted the best out of the 32 teams that will participate in the tournament in a poll conducted by Sky Sports.
The Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, to this end, has kept its promise of making sure that football lovers in the country have nothing to worry about as the team challenge for glory in Russia, unlike the preparation ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Jeneiro, when the team nearly missed the competitions due to lack of funds to fly them from their US camp to Brazil.
Then, the Sports Minister had said that no one permitted Samson Siasia and his U-23 boys to camp in the United States ahead of the competition, adding that they were on their own. They, however, landed in Brazil.
But ahead of Russia, the NFF and Rohr have also been able to manage the reported rift between the team’s captain, John Obi Mikel and his assistant, Ogenyi Onazi. Although Onazi came up to deny any form of face-off with his team captain, insiders authoritatively said there was actually cracks that nearly divided the team.
Speaking to this reporter on the team’s preparation on and off the pitch, a top official of the NFF who is also a delegate to Russia, said that Mikel and others have absolutely nothing to complain about.
The official, who wouldn’t want to be mentioned for the fear of being queried for making internal issues public, said that it is now left for the team to prove themselves.
According to him, “Match bonuses have been duly paid even before the games were played. Amaju Pinnick (the NFF president) would not want to hear that the team failed because these were not paid.
“As you may have heard or seen, they had the best of hotels, kits, everything. These are serious minded board members who understand the psychology of preparing a team for a tournament like the world.
“I won’t tell you if the team will perform well at the World Cup or not. But all I can tell you is that the ball is in their court. We have done all we are supposed to do with the help of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and the Sports Minister, Solomon Dalong.”
The Super Eagles under Gernot Rohr have played friendly matches against top World Cup-bound teams. And if one is to judge with the outcome of these matches, then, the answer won’t be far-fetched.
But the team handler, Gernot Rohr and other notable names in Nigerian football have said it would not be fair to judge the team by their poor performances in the warm up games. Nigeria is one of the most sports loving countries in the world. Nigerians do not like their teams, be it the Golden Eaglets, Flying Eagles, Flamingoes, Falconets, Super Falcons or their darling Super Eagles to lose matches.
During the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when the striker, Yakubu Aiyegbeni missed a sitter against South Korea, many Nigerians reportedly suffered cardiac arrest. That is how much Nigerians love the round-leather game.
Having lost 3 of their recent friendly games, what would Nigerians expects when Nigeria file out against Luka Modric led Croatia on June 16.
After the defeat to Czech in Austria, Rohr said the team would be ready in 10 days. By now, as Nigerians hope, the team has ascended high level maturity in ball control, fearlessness, resilience and focus. Nigerians are praying and also hoping that their darling Super Eagles put up stronger wings than the ones they flew with in the warm-up games.