In 1994, the world legendary football icon, Pele, predicted that Super Eagles of Nigeria would be the African side to win FIFA World Cup. Of course, Nigeria national team was on top of their game at USA94 and before the mundial the team was 5th on Coca-cola FIFA World Ranking.
It was perhaps, Nigeria’s Golden era, when most of its stars shined regularly in top flight teams across Europe: Rasheed Yekini (Vitoria Setubal), Emmanuel Amuneke (FC Barcelona), Daniel Omokachie (Everton), Finidi George (Real Madrid), Austin Okocha (PSG), Victor Ikpeba (Monaco), Sunday Oliseh (Juventus), Taribo West (Inter Milan), Nwankwo Kanu (Arsenal)… that period lasted until about 2006, when these crop of players began to retire from active football and the fortune of the country began to dwindle down.
Nigeria national team has struggled since then. Now on a free fall for the past five years or so – 66th on the latest FIFA World Ranking, with most of its key players either warming the bench in top flight clubs or playing in a much lower teams in Europe or Asia. Today, Pele’s predictions about Nigeria may seem so dim.
But while the transitional period was going on, Nigeria Eaglets won FIFA U17 World Cup back to back in 2013 and 2015, A lot of the youngsters started to find their way into the Youth teams of some top flight clubs in Europe: Isaac Success (Granada), Kelechi Iheanacho (Man City), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Chidera Eze (Porto), Wilfred Ndidi (Gents), Taiwo Awoniyi (PSV Frankfurt)…
Some other rising stars began to pull off extraordinary performances: Idion Ighalo (Watford), Simon Moses (Gents), and Anthony Ujah (Werder Bremen)…
At the league back home, some quality players also began to show up: Gbolahan Salami and Batholomew Ibenegbu (Warrri Wolves), Kingsley Sokari (Enyimba)… Some of these players may be representing Nigeria at Championship of African Nations (CHAN) in January 2016.
CHAN 2016 is expected to produce the first batch of the new Super Eagles, while Samson Siasia would deliver the rest after Rio Olympic Games.
Siasia, Nigeria U23 national team head coach, is expected to assemble a high flying Dream team for Rio Olympics’ men soccer, which would eventually deliver players that will make up 70% of the new Super Eagles. This may start off another Golden era for Nigeria national team.
However, there’s the need for NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, to master mind this plan and begin to work on synergic relationship between Sunday Oliseh, Nigeria national team coach and Siasia. These two coaches should form some kind of alliance with NFF technical committee to start building 2018 world cup team immediately after the Olympics.
If NFF and the coaches put their acts together, then the country may for once consider Pele’s prediction as the target for 2018 FIFA World cup. Nigeria have what it takes to win 2018 FIFA World Cup - Believe