To those who believed that the fortune of the country in 2014 was mixed, the good performance of the country’s senior national team, the Super Falcons, who reclaimed the African Women Championship (AWC) title in Namibia, as well as the second place finish of the Women U-20 side, the Falconets, at the FIFA Women U-20 World Cup held in Canada were enough consolations for the failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2015 AFCON.
For the school of thought that saw last year as fair, the aforementioned performance of the Falcons and the Falconets and the qualification of the Super Eagles for the second round of the FIFA World Cup held in Brazil dwarfed the failure of the Eagles to make it to AFCON 2015.
However, for the class of those that sees nothing positive regarding Nigerian football last year, the inability of the Super Eagles to pick a ticket to the African version of the mundial, rubbished whatever success the country might have had, including the victory of the Falcons in Namibia and the Falconets exploits at the World Cup in Canada. For them, the Eagles command the largest percentage of football followers in Nigeria, therefore, their failure to make the cut to Equatorial Guinea for the defence of the trophy they two years ago meant that Nigeria did not achieve anything as far as the round leather game was concerned in 2014.
This, therefore, brings the question of what the year 2015 holds for the most populous country in black Africa. This year is a bit loaded with various competitions such as the FIFA Women World Cup in Canada, the African U-20 and U-17 Championship from where the continent’s representatives at the 2015 FIFA World Cup would be determined. There is also the All Africa Games, which football event the national U-23 side and the Falcons will first battle to qualify for before thinking of making hay at the games proper.
The two teams will also be busy slugging it out for places at the Rio De Janeiro 2016 Olympics football event not to forget the Beach Soccer team who might play at the FIFA Beach World Cup slated for between July 9 and 19 in Portugal.
At the club level, the quartet of Enyimba of Aba, Kano Pillars, Dolphins of Port Harcourt and Warri Wolves would be hoisting the flag of the country in both the CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederation Cup with the aim of ending the country’s search for a continental diadem at the club level.
Two years ago, the Nigerian U-17 team rose on the back of others to lift the FIFA U-17 World Cup. That was the fourth time Nigeria won the diadem, thus making the country the most successful country at that level of football.
This year, the team has an onerous task of retaining the trophy. However, the Eaglets, now under the tutelage of ex-international and one of the assistants coach to Manu Garba who led the Nigerian cadet side to win the last championship in United Arabs Emirate, would have to pick a ticket to the mundial first before thinking of defending the diadem.
Preceding the World Cup, which is scheduled to hold between October 17 and November 8 is the African version of the championship billed for Niger Republic between February 15 and March 1. The Eaglets have host Niger, Guinea and Zambia to contend with for a place at the World Cup.
Before the FIFA World Youth Championship (WYC) holding in New Zealand between May 30 and June 2, the National U-20 side has the African hurdle to scale as they will join others to vie for honours in Senegal between March 8 and 22, where the team has been lumped in Group A alongside host Senegal, Cote d’ Ivoire and Congo.
The Manu Garba-tutored lads should have little or no problem making it to the mundial going by the fact that Nigeria will be represented by a team expected to be made up majorly of the all conquering Golden Eaglets set of 2013.
Baring injuries and loss of form, the likes of Kelechi Iyeanacho, Musa Yahaya, Taiwo Awoniyi, Dele Alampasu and the rest should be able to re-enact the form that saw them dazzle the world at the U-17 level two years ago in UAE.
The Nigerian senior national team will be going into the FIFA World Cup scheduled to hold in Canada from June 6 to July 5 as the African champion having won the African Women Championship in Namibia last year.
The team will compete in Group D of the tournament against formidable foes, USA, Sweden and Australia. Coach Edwin Okon remains upbeat that her ladies have what it take to shock the world and give Nigeria her best performance at the mundial.
It was in Canada that the Falconets, Nigeria’s Women U-20 team, got to the final of the World Cup where they lost 0-1 to Germany, hence, the Falcons should be spurred on by that feat.
Also on the card this year is the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Nigeria would have to scale through the qualifiers to participate in the championship, which is billed to be staged in Portugal from July 9 to 19.
Ever since Enyimba of Aba won the CAF Champions League in 2004, Nigerian clubs have continued to fumble in both the CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederation Cup. The farthest any club in the country has gone in the past few years were in 2011 and 2012 when Sunshine Stars of Akure reached the semi finals of the Confederation Cup and the Champions League.
This year, the duo of Enyimba and Kano Pillars will try to bring back the lost glory in the CAF Champions League while Warri Wolves and Dolphins will attempt to break the jinx surrounding Nigerian clubs and the CAF Confederation Cup.
National U-23 Team
The team, otherwise called the Dream Team, has been off the scene due to lack of competitions. Nigeria missed out of the London 2012 Olympics because the team failed to qualify. This year, the team will be back in action.
With Samson Siasia back in charge, the team’s first assignment is an All Africa Games qualifier against Gabon In February.
The Dream Team’s task is to book a ticket to the AAG, then battle for a ticket to the 2016 Olympics to be staged in the Brazilian City of Rio De Janeiro.
With Nigeria missing out of the AFCON holding from January 17 in Equatorial Guinea, the senior national side would be busy with series of friendlies to keep it in shape for future engagements and many Nigerians would be expecting to see a better Super Eagles squad anytime they are called to duty for a competitive game.