Tomorrow’s match between 2 time world champions Argentina and Nigeria’s Super Eagles is bound to to set the pace in South Africa for what are expected to be can’t miss matches. These include: Cameroon v Netherlands, Ivory Coast v Portugal, Ivory Coast v Brazil, Ghana v Germany and South Africa v France.
However, there is one aspect to this game that i would like to focus on. Ever since i can remember, Nigeria has always been grouped with Argentina. I do not know if this is by sheer coincidence or if it is already planned.
In 1994, Nigeria were pooled in Group D alongside Bulgaria, Argentina and Greece. Back then they lost 2-1 in the group stages to an Argentina squad that included Batistuta and of course Maradona. In 1998, Nigeria were lucky to have missed the south American giants, however, they were still in a tough Group D that had Spain, Paraguay and again Bulgaria.
The Super Eagles stunned the world by beating Spain 3-2 with Gabra Lawal and Sunday Oliseh each scoring a goal deep in the second half in the span of 5 minutes to win the match convincingly. In both those tournaments, Nigeria managed to go only as far as the quarter finals.
In 2002, as you would guess, the West Africans were again placed in the same group with their nemesis Argentina. This proved to be Nigeria’s worst tournament as they were bundled out in the group stages . They didn’t make it for the 2006 tournament.
So what i would like to know is just how FIFA handles the World Cup Group stage draw because the probability of drawing the same team in the same group in almost every edition of the tournament is extremely hard to say the least.
That said, Argentina are hot favourites to win the match tomorrow. With some of the best talent in the world in their squad, i am very sorry to say that Nigeria does not stand a chance. I predict a 3-1 win in their favour.
Nigeria no longer pose the threat they used to 10 years ago. With all the stars of their golden era retired except Kanu, Nigeria will be lucky to get a draw from tomorrow’s match. If Kenya my home country managed to push them through to lose 3-2 in their last qualifying game, i cannot imagine what the likes of Messi, Higuain, Milito and Veron would do to them.
Photo credit: from umusoto