As reactions continue to trail the 2018 World Cup draw that pitched Nigeria against winner of the first round match between Djibouti and Swaziland, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has assured it would stop at nothing to ensure the Super Eagles qualify for the Mundial. World soccer governing body, FIFA, had on Saturday in St. Petersburg made the draw for qualifying games in all its affiliate confederations.
A win for Nigeria in the second round will see the Super Eagles progress to the third round, which will consist of five groups of four teams each. The five group winners automatically qualify for the 2018 World Cup and the NFF insists the three-time African champions will be among Africa’s five flagbearers in Russia.
Speaking about the draw, a member of the NFF Executive Committee, Chris Green, said: “A World Cup without Nigeria is not complete and as a federation, we will do everything it takes to see that the Super Eagles qualify for the tournament. “We will continue to give the necessary support to (Super Eagles coach, Sunday) Oliseh to enable him succeed. “The Super Eagles owe Nigerians the obligation of playing well, winning matches and getting to play at every edition of the world cup.”
“We want to ensure that Nigeria becomes a great force in international football again,” Green added. Oliseh had expressed excitement at the development in St. Petersburg, but warned against complacency, revealing that there are a lot of dangerous teams around that could hurt if taken for granted. “We are not playing the first round, which is a preliminary round and which we knew before the draw,” he said.
“We will also be playing the first leg of the second round away, which means we have an advantage of playing the more crucial return leg at home, in front of our fans. “However, Djibouti and Swaziland need to be given the respect that they deserve and either of them that we face in the second round will not be underrated. We respect every team and we will battle anyone that emerges with our full strength.”
Oliseh also expressed optimism that the Super Eagles would pick one of the five qualifying tickets on offer in Africa. “I am optimistic we will run this race very well. We will give it our very best and pray it will be good enough to get us one of the five slots available for Africa,” he said. Also reacting to the draw, CSKA Moscow forward, Ahmed Musa, warned that winner of the clash between Djibouti and Swaziland must not be taken lightly by the Super Eagles when they clash in November.
“Personally, I know nothing about both countries. But we have to take them very seriously and prepare adequately well for them,” said the Nigeria international. “All the same, I see us going past any of them to reach the mini-league stage of the qualifying tournament.” The Super Eagles made their World Cup debut at the 1994 competition in the United States, and they have since featured in four more editions 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014.
– Keshi Oladipo Okubanjo