Ageless Benin Republic Centre Forward Rasaq Omotoyossi has upped the stakes ahead of his country’s March qualifier against Nigeria by openly boasting with much temerity that the Super Eagles will be thrashed in Cotonou. It hasn’t been the best of times for the Super Eagles recently following failure to record a single victory across 4 matches in 2020 and Nigeria’s inability to qualify for a major tournament with more than 1 game to spare for the first time since Gernot Rohr took over as coach. In November last year, The Super Eagles sunk to an all time low when they allowed Sierra Leone come back from a seemingly unassailable 4:0 deficit to leave the country with a most unlikely 4:4 draw and then hold Nigeria to what in their own eyes was an admirably 0:0 draw in the reverse Afcon qualifier fixture. Having risen steadily in the Fifa rankings before 2020 – going as high as the 3rd best team in Africa – the Super Eagles have now dropped to be the 5th team in the continent with their place in the world regressing slowly but steadily in the rankings. That mantle of invincibility that once eloquently cladded the Super Eagles has slipped and fallen following the outcome of recent matches, Nigeria’s steady decline in Fifa rankings and controversial Press statements attributed to coach Gernot Rohr which serve to alienate him further among a swathe of Super Eagles fans.
The Nigeria Football Federation has also been useless if truth be told. Stories of players being owed bonuses and pictures of NFF officials ‘training’ with the Super Eagles ahead of important Afcon qualifiers in November were a Public Relations disaster for the organisation. The perception among most fans is that the organisation is run by incompetent officials who have no viable plans for the success of the Nigerian football. Even the Sports Minister’s intervention and insistence on home-based players being mandatorily included in the Super Eagles squads has been derided as being delusional. All these coming as we fans brace up with bated breath for crucial assignments ahead for the national team. Now with March Afcon qualifiers just round the corner, Super Eagles fans are badly in need of a lift; a boost to bring the smiles back to our faces and restore confidence in a national team at real risk of not fulfilling its humongous potentials. However, Nigeria-born Benin International Omotoyossi, 35 yrs old, has emphatically enthused that they will rub more salt in Super Eagles wounds when both teams lock horns on 27 March. “I believe Benin will win 2-0,” predicted Razak Omotoyossi with much temerity. If this should happen, it will be a lethal stab to a Nigeria team clearly on the decline (depending on how one chooses to interpret recent events). A loss to Benin in March is going to cost the Super Eagles more than hurt-pride as 2 favourable (though unlikely) results for Sierra Leone will be enough to knock Nigeria out if we then fail to win Lesotho outright. It is even unthinkable to consider this eventuality. Despite having 2 more games to go in the last round of qualifiers, the following teams have already qualified for the Afcon tournament: Cameroon, Mali, Algeria, Senegal, Tunisia. Not that long ago, Nigeria used to be among such an elite group. Gernot Rohr’s Super Eagles now have a chance to redeem themselves starting with an emphatic win against Benin in Cotonou on 27 March. Anything other than an outright win will be a disaster and should definitely lead to conversations about the future of coach Gernot Rohr whilst heads should also roll in the incompetent NFF. Nigeria fans have settled for less once too often recently. A defeat to Benin will be gravely unacceptable and represent a point of no return. But I believe in the Nigeria spirit and something tells me that we will prevail. But, I never thought this match against Benin would hold such significance!