The FIFA World Cup is without a doubt, the biggest sporting event on earth, alongside the Olympic Games. Citizens of footballing nations love to see their national teams represent them at the global showpiece and fly their countries flag high. After South Africa emerged successful in their bid to host the tournament in 2010, the whole African continent met the news with great pleasure (first World Cup to be hosted on African soil), and expectations were placed on giant footballing nations in Africa like Nigeria to qualify for the competition and make Africa proud.
The Super Eagles
Nigeria was drawn alongside Tunisia, Mozambique, and Kenya in the Group B of the qualifiers. The Super Eagles, however, found themselves in a tough situation as their bid to qualify for the first World Cup on African soil was threatened. A 0-0 draw in Maputo, Mozambique in the first round of matches meant Nigeria had a slow start towards securing ticket to the 2010 FIFA WC. The Eagles would go on to beat Kenya 3-0 in their second group game, earned a 0-0 draw against Tunisia in Tunis in the third round of matches, leaving the stage set for an all-important qualifying match against Tunisia in Abuja. Tunisia was on top of the group after the first three games with victories over Kenya and Mozambique, coupled with a draw against the Eagles which saw them top the group with 7 points, two points above Nigeria on 5 points.
Nigerians trooped to the national stadium in Abuja on Sunday, September 6, 2009 to cheer the Eagles to victory as such result will see them top the group and put Nigeria in a favourable position to qualify for the global football competition. An Osaze Odemwingie opener in the 23rd minute of the game saw the whole country jubilate but it will take the visitors less than three minutes to reply the goal in the 25th minute. Fans at the stadium and at home watching had to wait patiently until Michael Enaramo gifted the Super Eagles the lead again 10 minutes from the final whistle (80th minute). Nigerian hearts were left broken in the 90th minute as a goal from Oussama Darragi, meant the Tunisians leveled the score line as the game ended 2-2.
All hope was almost lost but the then Shuaibu Amodu led Eagles knew they had to keep the faith and hope Tunisia drop points elsewhere for them to qualify provided they win their remaining two games, one at home to Mozambique, and the last qualifying fixture in Nairobi against Kenya. The Super Eagles would labour hard in the fifth round of qualifiers with a lucky goal in added time to beat Mozambique 1-0 in Abuja and wait for the final showdown against Kenya (equally beaten by Tunisia) on November 14, 2009.
With the Kenyan team determined to upset the Eagles and avenge the 3-0 loss suffered against Nigeria in Abuja, the Super Eagles found themselves trailing the Harambee stars 1-0 after the East Africans had taken the lead in the 15th minute of the game through a Dennis Oliech goal. Tunisia only needed a draw to book a ticket to the 2010 World Cup and were in a perfect mood as they held on to a 0-0 score line in the first half of their last group encounter against Mozambique.
Obafemi Martins came off the bench to equalize for Nigeria in the 62nd minute. Yakubu Aiyegbeni made it 2 for Nigeria in the 65th minute but Kenya would equalize in the 79th minute, while Tunisia still maintained a strong defence against Mozambique in Maputo. The North Africans would loose their advantage in the 83rd minute as the Humberto Coelho tutored Carthage Eagles conceded against Mozambique.
Elsewhere in Nairobi, the bench of the Super Eagles jumped up their feet on hearing the result of the Maputo battle, charging the Eagles players on the field to take the lead and gift Nigeria the World Cup ticket. Obafemi Martins’ sublime effort in the 83rd minute meant Nigeria took the lead and with the game in Maputo almost finished, team captain Nwankwo Kanu was seen on the touch line urging the boys on. As the centre referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the game, Nigerian football fans all over the world could not hold back their joy as the Eagles booked their ticket to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Featured Image Source: Futaa