Nigerians hopeful as FIFA holds Russia 2018 World Cup draws
Despite the assurances by team officials and players that the Super Eagles do not care the pedigree of any team they get in the Russia 2018 World Cup draws holding today at the Kremlin, Moscow, Nigerians are anxiously praying for a good group for their national team.
Nigeria is in Pot 4 of the draws, which means that the Super Eagles could be in the same group with any of the top rated teams, including Brazil, Germany, Spain, Argentina, France and England. But the Super Eagles’ Manger, Gernot Rohr is insisting that Nigeria will do well in any group it finds itself.
That self assurance is good going into such a competition as tough as the FIFA World Cup, but the reality is that being in a ‘Group of Death’ could easily see a team, no matter how tough it feels, exit the competition in the first round.
Feelers from Moscow indicate that today’s draws could topple whatever has been done previously in the final draws for the past 20 championships.
To start with, the Draw Ceremony is being held inside the State Kremlin Palace – the Parliament of the Russian Federation, which served the same purpose when the country was a much bigger, more intimidating Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
Gary Lineker, who played in the 1986 and 1990 finals for England and scored in both competitions, will conduct the Draw alongside Russian star, Maria Komandnaya, with Miroslav Klose, the World Cup’s highest scorer, who netted across four finals in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014, to be the trophy bearer.
The draw assistants are Laurent Blanc (1998 World Cup winner with France); Gordon Banks (goalkeeper of England’s 1966 –winning squad); Cafu (two –time winner with Brazil, also involved in the Final Draw for 2014 competition); Fabio Cannavaro (Italy’s 2006 team –winning captain, also involved in the Final Draw for 2014 competition), Diego Forlan (whose Uruguay won in 1930 and 1950); Diego Maradona (who led Argentina to victory in 1986, after they won at home in 1978); Carles Puyol (involved in Spain’s 2010 triumph in South Africa) and Nikita Simonyan (who played for 2018 hosts Russia in the 1958 finals in Sweden).
Speaking from the Crowne Plaza World Trade Centre, Moscow the morning after he landed in the Russian capital for the showpiece event, Rohr told thenff.com that there is no weak squad in the 32 –team field, and anyone hoping to play so –called ‘average teams’ in the group phase is only guilty of wishful thinking.
“All the teams that are in the Final Draw, except the host nation Russia, played qualifying matches. They all emerged from tough encounters and therefore, none can be tagged ‘weak.’
“In the next 24 hours, we will enter the State Kremlin Palace for the Final Draw and a couple of hours later, everyone will know their opponents. There is no apprehension. If you have to be listed among the best, you have to conquer the better teams and even beat some of the best.”
During the week, statistical analysis of the teams in the Final Draw revealed that Nigeria used the youngest squad to qualify for the finals, and 16 days ago right on Russian soil, the three –time African champions came from two goals down to flog two –time world champions Argentina 4-2 in a friendly game.
“We don’t see that as more than a friendly, but what we took away was the capacity of the boys to respond appropriately to adversity, and I loved their reaction,” Rohr intimated. The win brought back memories of Nigeria’s 4-1 spanking of the Argentines in another friendly in Abuja on the first day of June 2011, and the 1996 Olympic Final, in which the South Americans were outlcassed by the Dream Team.
“Seriously speaking, every team has the right to dream. But we have our heads on our shoulders and our feet on the ground, and whatever draw comes, we will take it one match at a time.”
Today’s final draw will start at 6:00 p.m. Moscow time (4pm Nigeria time).
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