Nigeria returned to the African Cup of Nations in emphatic fashion when the Super Eagles pounded the visiting Lone Star 6-1 at the U. J. Esuene Stadium, Calabar on Saturday.
And at the final whistle, NFF President Aminu Maigari pledged that the Federation will deploy all resources to ensure the team is well prepared to lift the Cup of Nations trophy in South Africa in four months.
Following a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Monrovia last month, the Liberians could afford to dream and set about the countdown for the return leg with a touch of comedy.
Having informed the Nigeria Football Federation that they would arrive in a chartered flight on Thursday evening, they accused Nigerian aviation authorities of denying their aircraft landing right, when in
fact, they had not concluded arrangement with the airline.
After they somehow managed to seal a deal with another airline on Friday, the arrival time kept changing, and eventually the contingent landed in Calabar at midnight and wanted no Nigerian near them.
They opted for a different accommodation other than the Channel View Hotel reserved for them, shunned protocol assistance and transportation and generally kept to themselves.
Before the match, superstition was in the air as all previous matches involving Nigeria handled by South African centre referee Daniel Bennett had ended in draws.
All that counted for nothing as Scotland-based defender Efe Ambrose scored in the first minute, and then Ahmed Musa increased the tally eight minutes before half-time.
The match was, to all intents and purposes over after Victor Moses swept in a great pass, and further goals by John Mikel Obi (penalty), Ikechukwu Uche and Moses himself only underscored the gulf in class and enriched the Eagles further with Pamodzi, official marketer of NFF, paying $1000 for each goal.
An overjoyed Maigari, who was in company with Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, Minister of Sports/Chairman, National Sports Commission, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, Chairman of Senate Sports
Committee, Senator Adamu Gumba, Chairman of House Sports Committee, Hon. Godfrey Gaiya and members of his Executive Committee and Management, simply said: “Words are inadequate to express my delight.
“We will do everything to ensure that the team prepares well, very well to go to South Africa and lift the trophy, which is what His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR) has charged us to do.”
The match was watched by a full house at Canaan City, who supported the Eagles all the way and were rewarded with a rain of goals.
A year ago, Maigari and his NFF team watched shellshocked as Guinea equalized with 30 seconds left in the final qualifier in Abuja, rendering the Super Eagles ineligible for the 2012 finals co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
The scenes were markedly, and understandably, different in Calabar on Saturday evening, only six days after the U-20 National Team, Flying Eagles, qualified for the 2013 African Youth Championship with a 3-0 spanking of South Africa in Ilorin.
“This has been a very good year for Nigeria football. We have qualified for all major competitions and have not done badly in anyone that we have gone,” said High Chief Emeka Inyama, Chairman of the NFF Media and Publicity Committee.
Inyama was referring to the U-20 and U-17 Women Teams’ qualification and participation at FIFA tournaments in Japan and Azerbaijan respectively, the Super Falcons’ imminent participation at the 8th African Women Championship in Equatorial Guinea and the Flying Eagles’ and Super Eagles’ qualification for next year’s continental finals.
The only competition left for Nigeria to qualify for this year is the 2013 African U-17 Championship, and the Golden Eaglets continue the journey with a second round, first leg clash with their counterparts from Guinea on Sunday, also at the U. J. Esuene Stadium.
The Eaglets humiliated the U-17 National Team of Niger 10-1 in the first round, to qualify for this stage.
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