Nigeria can indeed win against France today in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.
And one factor that makes me think so is the history Nigeria has against European opposition at the World Cup.
This game against France will be Nigeria’s 18th at the World Cup.
Of this number, ten have been against European opposition, 5 against South American opposition and 2 against Asians.
Nigeria have always lost to South American opposition- 2-1 against Argentina in 1994, 1-0 against Paraguay in 1998, 1-0 against Argentina in 2002, 1-0 against Argentina in 2012 and 3-2 against Argentina in 2014.
Against the Asians it has been two draws, 2-2 against South Korea in 2012 and 0-0 against Iran in 2014.
But it is with the Europeans that Nigeria has had the most luck.
All Nigeria’s five World Cup wins have been against European nations.
In 1994, it was 3-0 against Bulgaria and 2-0 against Greece; in 1998 it was 3-2 against Spain and 1-0 against Bulgaria while in 2014 it was 1-0 against Bosnia/ Herzegovina.
Nigeria have also kept clean sheets against European countries on 5 occasions- 3-0 against Bulgaria in 1994 and 2-0 against Greece in 1994, 1-0 against Bulgaria in 1998, 0-0 against England in 2002 and 1-0 against Bosnia in 2014.
So it is safe to say Nigeria has a pretty decent history against European countries at the World Cup.
The Eagles have also lost scandalously once against a European side, 4-1 against Denmark in 1998.
The French team has not fared better against African sides as the only time they have met an African side was as champions in 2002 and they lost 1-0 to a very inspired Senegal side.
But does history alone win games at the World Cup? I do not think so
The Super Eagles under Keshi have played a style that is very difficult to break down.
Granted the Argentines scored three times against Nigeria last week, but it was down more to the inspiration of Lionel Messi than what the team could muster against the Super Eagles.
Keshi’s Eagles lack the flair Nigerians would want to see every time their national team plays but they are compact and play a possession based kind of football.
With creativity lacking in the team’s midfield, Keshi will rather have a strong midfield duo of John Mikel Obi and Ogenyi Onazi with Osaze Odemwingie acting the tre-quartista between the two midfielders and the main man upfront, Emmanuel Emenike.
With wide men, Ahmed Musa and maybe the return of Victor Moses in this game or even Ejike Uzoenyi, the French Fullbacks will be kept in check.
But Nigeria’s power house is certainly Emmanuel Emenike who may not have scored yet but has been a major player in the run of the Eagles so far in the World Cup.
Did you watch the World Cup in 1994? Did you watch the Olympic Games in 1996? Then you must know what Daniel Amokachi did for the Eagles? Yeah, that’s Emmanuel Emenike.
The defence has seemed compact until they were breached three times by Lionel Messi’s Argentina.
There is also Vincent Enyeama who has proved time and time again that he is worth every minute he spends between the sticks for Nigeria.
They will have to watch Karim Benzema’s runs and the aerial prowess of Olivier Giroud though, while the duo of Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuildi will be expected to keep John Mikel Obi and Ogenzi Onazi busy.
Can history and style of play win a World Cup game? Maybe, but there’s more.
The media was awash with reports that Nigeria was about to go the way of Ghana by causing a ruckus and refusing to train until they got certain monies paid to them.
They didn’t turn out for training on Thursday in Campinas just a day after the loss to Argentina though it was not clear what money they were fighting for- appearance fees, match bonuses or 2nd round qualification bonuses.
However, just yesterday (Sunday) president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan lifted up their spirits when he said all their outstanding Brazil 2014 World Cup appearance fee have been ordered cleared by Sports Minister, Hon Tammy Danagogo.
He also promised to clear any outstanding that the team may incur in the course of the championship, including outstanding FIFA grants to the NFF that will be off-set later.
If the spirit in camp is right, coupled with the history Nigeria have against Europe, and our style of play then maybe victory is assure?
At 1pm today when the game kicks off in Brasilia, the temperature will be between 26 and 29 degrees centigrade which will be quite hot for the Europeans.
Now there is the argument that a lot of the Nigerians play their football in Europe, but in the Nigerian starting eleven will have the likes of Efe Ambrose, Kenneth Omeruo, Elderson Echiejile, Onazi Ogenyi, Ahmed Musa, Emmanuel Emenike and maybe Ejike Uzoenyi and Godfrey Oboabona if they get to play who can bask in the heat of Brazilia like a single Nigerian girl about to get Brazilian hair as a gift from her betrothed.
Does weather play a part in the way a game turns? I believe so, and the French will be the most hit… advantage Nigeria.
Leaving out the niceties, Nigeria could emerge winners against France today because of one man, Stephen Keshi.
Keshi since becoming coach of the national team three years ago has believed in himself and his abilities to always succeed.
Taking over a team that failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2011 to qualifying for and winning the next one in 2013.
Then he qualified the team for the World Cup and set a target for himself to better Nigeria’s previous best performance which a win today will guarantee.
Back in 2006, when Stephen Keshi was still manager of Togo, he gave an interview to a handful of journalists in a hotel lobby in northern Cairo. The first time I’d spoken to him, four years earlier in Bamako, he had been lying on a sun lounger by a swimming pool and, metaphorically at least, he still was. Keshi always gives the impression of being laid back. But for a moment, the hardness beneath showed through. “Some day,” he said, “I will be coach of Nigeria and then they will know they have a coach.” Taken from an article written by Jonathan Wilson in February 2013.
That is the belief Keshi has in himself and he has had it right from when he played for ACB FC in Lagos in the late 70s, then NNB FC of Benin in the early 80s before he moved to Stella Abidjan, Africa Sports and then Europe.
Keshi always spoke with authority and put his money where his mouth was.
If Keshi has infected his players with just a quarter of his self-belief, then the Eagles could fly above France today
But we all know that self-belief alone will not win a football match.
Finally, luck and goals
Does luck exist in football? Yes. And after all said and done, Nigerians must still hope for the luck that saw Pinalla’s effort go against the cross bar in the 119th minute against Brazil go in their favour.
Nigerians must also hope for the luck that saw the referee’s flag go off for offside when Edin Dzeko scored against the Eagles.
And most of all, Keshi must get his tactics right for today, while the players must get their acts right on the pitch.
Nigeria can win against France, but an article on naijafootball247.com will not in itself bring victory.
The fourteen players on the pitch today will.
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