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Published On: Tue, Dec 5th, 2017

Russia 2018: Super Eagles will make Nigeria proud – Pinnick

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The embattle President of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick

The embattle President of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick

By Amaechi Agbo.

The President, Nigeria Football Federation, Mr Amaju Pinick has described the current Super Eagles as players with patriotic zeal to make Nigeria proud in next year’s World Cup in Russia.
Mr Pinick who said that the Super Eagles is made up if youthfuk players, added that Nigeria dies not only have a team for next year’s World Cup, but also have a team for the future.
The NFF boss who guested in a television sports programme yesterday, described Iceland, one if the teams Super Eagles will face in the Group D of the mundial as “unknown nation with largely unkwon players with patriotic zeal,”
In his words: “Iceland is an unknown football nation but they have played in the European Cup quarter finals. Their players are largely unknown but their patriotic zeal is what we are talking about and that is what we have in Nigeria.
“Our players are quite patriotic, they love the green white and green and they want to make the country proud. The beauty about Nigeria is that we don’t just have a team for today; we have a team for tomorrow. We have a team for the next Nations Cup. We have a team for the next World Cup,” he concluded.
Amaju Pinnick expressed confident that mental strength, self –belief and youthfulness will serve the Super Eagles well at the 21st FIFA World Cup finals in Russia next year summer.
Speaking on the World Sport programme of the Cable News Network (CNN) from the station’s London studio on Monday, Pinnick, who is a Member of the CAF Executive Committee and President of AFCON, also commended the African body for its decision to support the continent’s five flagbearers’ preparations for Russia 2018 with much –needed cash.
“First and foremost, I must commend all the 32 qualified teams because they came from very intense qualifying campaigns. What will then matter at the finals in Russia are factors such as the quality of preparation by each team, the mental state of the players and prayers from back home.
“We are in a ‘decent group.’ Argentina has such a high pedigree and Croatia and Iceland are very good. Iceland reached the quarter –finals of the European Championship last year and topped their qualifying group, so there are no minnows in there.
“We are banking on good preparation and the belief that our young players have in themselves. I am also happy that CAF is weighing in with some good money ($500,000 each) to support the preparation of the African flag –bearers. I can also tell you that CAF is looking to see an African team in the semi –finals or even to go all the way to win the trophy.”
Pinnick said nobody gave the Super Eagles any chance of defeating Argentina in a friendly in Krasnodar 20 days ago.
“We have a coach who has the mentality of a winner, and he has imbibed the players with the same attitude. We can do very well at the World Cup in Russia. I am very delighted that we have a team for tomorrow; a team for the next (2022) World Cup finals.
“African players light up the English Premiership every weekend. Liverpool FC appear not to be able to do without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, and Chelsea FC sometimes struggle without Victor Moses. We have bright prospects in Russia.”
Nigeria will trade tackles with two –time world champions and reigning world vice champions Argentina, Iceland and Croatia in Group D at Russia 2018.
Argentina have narrowly won all four previous FIFA World Cup clashes with Nigeria (all at group phase: 1994, 2002, 2010, 2014) but the Eagles have lashed the La Albiceleste in two prestige friendlies (2011 and 2014), while honours in two
clashes in the final of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament (1996 and 2008) have been shared.
Nigeria have never played Croatia – the small East European nation that shocked the world by winning bronze medals at her maiden FIFA World Cup appearance in 1998.
Nigeria and Iceland have met only once before in history – a friendly match in Reykjavik on 22ndAugust 1981 that the Strakarnir Okkar (Our Boys) won 3-0. It was part of the Eagles’ preparation for the final round of qualifiers for the 1982 FIFA World Cup, which they lost to Algeria home and away.
Incidentally, the two teams’ clash in Russia will also be on the twenty –second day of the month – 22nd June 2018 in Volgograd.

Super Eagles Russia 2018 Group matches:
Croatia Vs Nigeria (Kaliningrad Stadium, 16th June, 9pm)
Nigeria Vs Iceland (Volgograd Arena, 22nd June, 6pm)
Nigeria Vs Argentina (Saint Petersburg Stadium, 26th June, 9pm)
In a related development, ex international, John Fashanu, has warned that Nigeria should be weary of Iceland which he said are unknown and are capable of pulling surprises in next year’s World Cup.
Fashanu said that World Cup first timers, Iceland, with population of roughly 400,000 is the team Nigeria should fear because of the little information about them.
“I am quite happy to be in the same group with Argentina because when we play Argentina, we raise our game. I don’t want to be in the same group with Iceland being the first time they qualified for a World Cup. That is a bogey team- a team nobody knows anything about. They are the team with nothing to lose, everything to gain. They will smoking guns for the Super Eagles,” Fashanu was quoted.
Nigeria, Three-time AFCON conquer, will face the little no Icelanders in Volgograd on June 22, 2018 after igniting their campaign against Croatia in Kaliningrad on June 16 before playing their final group match against Argentina in St Petersburg on June 26.
The other teams in the group include Argentina and Croatia, who finished third at France 98. The Croats parade players such as Real Madrid playermaker, Luka Modric, Barcelona midfielder, Ivan Rakitic, Seria A Juventus striker, Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic of Inter Milan as formidable players in their rank for selection.
But the former Wimbledon striker, Fashanu, considered them as inconsistent team.
“It is not that we don’t know Croatia which is always a middle of the road team. The Croats are never brilliant and never terrible. They might scare you but they are not a team that has consistency. The one you are going to worry about is Iceland, not Argentina, even though Argentina have Lionel Messi, arguably one of the best players in the world’’.

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