African champions, Nigeria have the quality to torpedo France from the 2014 FIFA World Cup, so says President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Aminu Mohammed Maigari.
The 58-year-old football chief has presided over Nigeria football for the past four years and is excited at the litany of records his board has set on and off the pitch.
“We are not done yet. I can tell you that the Super Eagles will overcome France on Monday and that will be another glorious record,” he said as he flew out of Sao Paulo to Brasilia on Sunday morning.
On Wednesday, as Maigari celebrated his birthday, the Super Eagles had a marvellous game against two-time world champions Argentina to qualify for the FIFA World Cup Round of 16 for the first time in 16 years, and defeat of France on Monday will mean a first-ever World Cup quarter-final for the world’s most populous black nation.
“I have confidence that we will beat France. If you have followed our campaign well, you would notice that we have improved match after match. We came close to upsetting Argentina in Porto Alegre. We do not fear France,” Maigari told a horde of media men at the local wing of Guarulhos Airport.
The Eagles have become a much-better brand over the past two years, on the back of collective hard work by the Federation, players and technical crew and a diligence that has ensured 26 friendly matches for the team since they left the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa with damp wings.
After earning four points in the group phase to come second behind perennial foes Argentina and a berth in the knock-out rounds, Nigeria stand to play at football’s most renowned temple, Estadio Maracana, if they conquer the Les Bleus on Monday.
Already, they have played at some of the world’s breath-taking arenas in Brazil, namely the Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre, the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba and the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba, not forgetting that they did battle on the pitches of Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza and the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador during the FIFA Confederations Cup a year ago.
Setting out at the 72-000 capacity Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha is fulfilling in itself, but a date on the luscious turf of the Maracana, with the globally-famous Christ The Redeemer landmark overlooking the performers, is the dream of every footballer.
However, Maigari would rather concentrate on the job at hand.
“We believe we will fly over France but we have to focus on what we have to do to win that match, and not start thinking of what Maracana would look like. We must think of Monday before thinking of Friday,” he said.
Maigari’s words of wisdom contrast with the attitude of players and coaches before a similar Round of 16 match against Denmark at the 1998 World Cup, with Nigeria thinking of a quarter final duel with Brazil before clashing with the Danes.
The Eagles lost that match 4-1, and Denmark forward Brian Laudrup cautioned at the post–match parley that “Nigeria must learn to count one before four.”
Already, NFF’s Director of Marketing, Adama Idris has secured enough tickets for all members of NFF delegation, members of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club who are in Brazil, as well as members of the Nigeria community in Brazil, to go to the stadium and support the Eagles against the French.
Monday’s match kicks off at 5pm Nigeria time (1pm Brasilia time).