Stories by Gbenga Jolaosho Abuja
Super Eagles’ Franco-German Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr has heaped praises on his wards for fi ghting a great battle to overcome Zambia’s Chipolopolo and qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup fi nals.
A 74th minute goal by substitute Alex Iwobi gave the Super Eagles a 1-0 win over Zambia in Uyo on Saturday and this was suffi cient to make Nigeria become the fi rst African country to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup fi nals.
It is instructive that seven diff erent players scored Nigeria’s 13 goals of the qualifi ers right from the preliminary stage with Victor Moses having three goals to his credit.
Th e likes of Mikel Obi, Alex Iwobi, Moses Simon, Kelechi Iheanacho net two each while Odion Ighalo and Efe Ambrose score one each.
He said at the post –match conference: “It was a very diffi cult game, in fact the most diffi cult for us in the qualifying series because of what was at stake, because we knew a win would take us there and we were eager to fi nish it off .
“I commend the Zambians for their spirit.
Th ey fought very hard.
Th is team was diff erent from the one we defeated in Ndola last year; this was a much better and stronger team.
“I am very happy for the players and for this great nation, for us to qualify with a match in hand.
It is a good feeling and after this night, we will begin to plan about how to prepare for the World Cup.
“But we have the fi nal match in Algeria next month, and perhaps we can have a friendly within that window as well and begin the preparation for Russia 2018.
” It could be recalled that the road to Nigeria’s qualifi cation began in November, 2016 when Eagles edged out Swaziland in the preliminary round.
After a 0-0 draw in Lobamba on 13th November, Moses Simon and Efe Ambrose got the goals that qualifi ed Nigeria for the group phase at the Adokiye Amiesiamaka Stadium, Port Harcourt on 17th November 2015.
On 9th October 2016, they defeated Zambia 2-1 in Ndola with goals from Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho and; on 12th November 2016, they overcame Algeria 3-1 in Uyo.
Two of the goals were by Victor Moses and the other by Captain Mikel Obi.
On 1st September 2017, African champions Cameroon suff ered a 4-0 reverse in Uyo (the goals by Odion Ighalo, Mikel, Moses and Iheanacho), and three days later in Yaounde, the Eagles were forced to a 1-1 draw.
Moses Simon scored Nigeria’s goal.
And on Saturday, 7th October 2017, the Super Eagles fi nally got the job done, beating the Chipolopolo 1-0 with a 74th minute goal by Iwobi.
Nigeria’s best outing at the FIFA World Cup has been the Round of 16, which they reached in 1994, 1998 and 2014.
Th ey were eliminated in the group phase in 2002 and 2010.