WORLD CUP 2018 DOUBLE HEADER
*Says Akpeyi not to blame entirely for Nigeria’s defeat to S’Africa
Ahead of Nigeria’s double header FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying matches against Cameroon, former Super Eagles influential goalkeeper and Captain, Peter Rufai, on Tuesday advised football fans and purists in the country to stop dwelling on the team’s last failure against South Africa.
Dodo Manyana, as Rufai is better known told THISDAY in Lagos yesterday that the World Cup games with the Indomitable Lions were going to be explosive as clashes between both countries hold so much promises.
“I see very explosive matches ahead between Nigeria and Cameroon. We should not use what happened between Nigeria and South Africa in the AFCON 2019 qualifier to judge the Super Eagles. They are two different matches. I however believe Nigeria will come out of the double header matches with Cameroon with better results,” observed Rufai.
He insisted that the fact that Cameroon is the current African champions is not enough to write off the Super Eagles. “In the past, playing Cameroon used to strike fears in the minds of Nigerians but not anymore. The situation is now different from when the Lions were almost insurmountable,” stressed the ex international.
Against a backdrop of concerns being raised by Nigerian football fans on the quality of goalkeepers available for selection for the crucial World Cup matches in the absence of Carl Ikeme who is undergoing treatment for leukemia, Rufai insisted that there is no need to fret.
“Nigeria is a big country with so many potentials capable of picking up the Number 1 jersey in the Eagles. Between now and the match in September is enough time for handlers of the team to pick suitable replacement for Ikeme. I have seen some wonderful goal keeping in the Nigerian topflight league and we equally have players doing very well in their clubs in Europe. It is the duty of the technical department of the federation (NFF) to give us somebody we all are going to be proud of after the qualifiers,” he noted.
Rufai said Daniel Akpeyi should not be blamed entirely for the 2-0 Eagles suffered against the Bafana Bafana of South Africa in the AFCON 2019 qualifier played in Uyo.
“Football is team work. I don’t think it is fair to heap Eagles 2-0 defeat against South Africa on Akpeyi. I also don’t think it is enough to dismiss him as not good enough for the team again because of that defeat. The entire team should take the blame for the defeat. My philosophy in life is not to dwell on past mistakes,” Rufai stressed further.
He however advised the senior team players to take the game with all seriousness in order to exorcise the ghost of invincible Cameroon from the minds of Nigerians once and for all.
Nigeria currently leads Group B with six points from two games while Cameroon is second, four points behind the Super Eagles while Zambia and Algeria make up the rear on one point each.
FIFA brought back the dates for the double header from August 31 for the first game in Uyo to September 1 with the reverse leg taking place on September 4.
As also stated on the official FIFA website, the game in Uyo is billed to kick off at 7pm local time at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium.
A win for Nigeria will see the Super Eagles take a giant step towards qualification for the FIFA World Cup 2018 to be held in Russia.