Kanu: Eagles Will Be Better Against Argentina

The third and fourth stanzas of the Nigeria National anthem charges us: “To serve our father land; With Love and strength and faith”.

And for the third time the Super Eagles will belt them out in Porto Alegre to open the stage for their final Group F clash with Argentina, who will be responding with their own version of Cancion Patriotica (the Patriotic Song).

Flying the country’s flag, is a honourable task that comes with its toils and broils, but to crown it up with the words of another compatriot who is testament to these national ethos, Kanu Nwankwo: “Everyone wants to win it for Nigeria”.

“There are three goals everyone wants to achieve at the World Cup. The first is to participate, the second is to make your mark, and the third is to win it… Kanu Nwankwo, OON on Fifa.com.

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Kanu Nwankwo After Scoring a Sudden-Death Goal Against Argentina in Atlanta 1996.

Kanu Nwankwo After Scoring a Sudden-Death Goal Against Argentina in Atlanta 1996.

Kanu Nwankwo After Scoring a Sudden-Death Goal Against Argentina in Atlanta 1996.

The two-time Caf Player of the Year award recipient twice tasted heartbreaks in the hands of ‘La Albiceleste’ either side of bearing it all with a failing heart, while coasting to the Atlanta Olympics Gold at the expense of the same foes.

From South Korea/Japan to South Africa and now Brazil. Despite not having to lace up his boots and don the now-lemon green-white jersey on to the pitch this time ’round, ‘Papilo’ remains a loud voice cheering the younger generation to glory.

“I love (following the team around Brazil),” the 37-year-old told Fifa.com. “Do I think I will be here for the whole tournament? I would say yes, because we are going to get to the semi finals of course.”

Having never beaten Argentina on the biggest stage in world football, the time is right for Nigeria to take its fair pound of flesh. At the moment, a draw will do.

Last time we reached the second round of the World Cup, Kanu was a General at the forefront. Now a member of the rusty few who like me and you watches from the comfort of a four-legged upright, the ex-Ajax, Inter Milan and Arsenal striker remains critical of Eagles’s performances, but likens them to a good wine.

“When we played against Iran, they were not really coming out. The Bosnians, of course, wanted to win so they came out and that suited our pattern of play, which was good for us,” he added.

“I think Nigeria will earn a point against Argentina, because what has happened with the Nigeria team is that they keep getting better game after game, so I believe when we play Argentina the confidence and the winning mentality beating Bosnia will bring will mean we will be able to do well against Argentina.”

For fairness sake, that is one distinctive attribute of the coach Stephen Keshi lads, against the Clemens Westerhorf side, whom himself “the big boss” captained to the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) triumph (the two best Nigeria coaches of contemporary times).

Keshi has been furious about Nigerian’s overbearing impatience, and the 52-year-old is right. Nigerians wants it ‘sharp, sharp’ with ‘no wahala’, but football has never been bed of roses. Yet pardon me to say, even the footballing world scorned at the team’s performance against Iran; but for the latter justification against the high-powered Argentina who waited until injury time to squeeze out three points against the Persians.

Never-less, the Eagles of today are habitual slow starters. We’ve witnessed that for quite a couple of time- in last year’s victorious Afcon campaign and the Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) early this year, both in South Africa.

“He (Keshi) has done it in the Africa Cup of Nations but he still has to do it this time around,” said Kanu, and he does not mean to subject the team to any form of pressure whatsoever.

“When (Keshi) came in, he said we need to build a team and before we knew it we won the Nations Cup and now we are in the World Cup, so I think the work is in progress.”

And Nigerians are loving it. Let the Nigerian team throng onto the Estadio Beira Rio pitch on Wednesday, knowing there are over 170 million others back home wishing them luck. The talents are there and they will never be found wanting. We are underdogs to our big name opponents, not when you remember the mighty ones have fallen. What else than a show of attitude and winning culture that we’re made of, and I promise Group F is for the African champions to progress.

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Patrick Imoh
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