President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Aminu Maigari, urges the national team to reawaken its attitude and resilience in their bid to upstage Bosnia-Hercegovina and advance into the last 16 of the World Cup in Brazil.
Bosnia’s hopes of reaching the knock-out stage of the soccer showpiece in their first try, were pegged back by an opening loss to Argentina. Nigeria drew with Iran in Curitiba on Monday and bargains for not other than a win to highlights its credentials as the best team from the Confederation of African Football (Caf) zone.
“I have fervent belief that you will conquer on Saturday and go even further in the competition, but we must all remember to honour our nation and the African continent in the way we behave on the field and off it,” Maigari said to the team on Wednesday, while visiting their Campinas base.
The three-time African champions have survived on the edge of disappointment in two of their recent outings and wouldn’t want to risk its chances of progressing to the second round for the first time since France 98.
The Super Eagles must now break the winless spell that has sat and dined with them since the 1-0 win against Bulgaria in the penultimate group stage game of France 98 and coach Stephen Keshi needs the win than ever, in a bid to enhance his Curriculum Vitae (CV)- his prospective first over an European country since taking the job of the national team.
Maigari, keeping up with the NFF resolution of continuous support for the national team, charges them to do the proverbial ‘little mouse’ who ‘turns cheese into butter’.
“We are a never-say-die people, and we have donw it several times in the past,” the football chief said. “Our people still talk about the Damman Miracle till this day, and we all saw how the Dream Team (1996 Atlanta Olympic-winning squad), led by Nwankwo Kanu, swept aside Brazil and Argentina to win Olympic gold, from position of disadvantage each time.
“Most recently, yourselves were involved in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in South Africa, where many people thought we didn’t have a chance after drawing with Burkina Faso and Zambia in our first two matches, only to go all the way and win the cup.”
A win against Safet Susic’s side on Saturday places Nigeria on the brink of a second round berth. The ‘Golden Lilies’ as well expects nothing short of a game out of the top drawer and ‘will be playing for qualification as well’.
The Eagles were in a more precarious situation in South Africa four years ago, only to allow Sanni Kaita’s exuberance rub a pound of salt on their injury.
Attitude has cost African teams quite a lot already in the Brazil tournament, such as Cameroonian Alexandre Song’s red card circumstance in Wednesday’s ouster at Croatia’s expense in Manaus.
Maigari also sounded a reminder to the team on the need for discipline, urging them to be good ambassadors of the nation.
“Football is an amazing game that plays a huge role in international relations, and we must at all times, be conscious of how far our attitude on the field will go in portraying our national and the people we represent,” Maigari added.
“We have a name to protect and that is to go out there and conduct ourselves with honour and win well, while behaving in a way that our people and our continent will be proud of.”