Nigeria’s shameful World Cup performance and defeat reflect sorry state of country….
Special to USAfricaonline.com and CLASSmagazine, Houston
Nigeria’s participation at the ongoing FIFA 2010 World Cup came to a sad end on Tuesday June 22, 2010 with the 2-2 against South Korea depicting the sorry state of the nation with so much resources and potential but yet failed to deliver when it matters.
Even when God made it easy with Argentina’s 2-0 defeat of Greece, the Nigerians failed to raise their game and spurned the chance of making it to the second round.
It was an agonizing end to a campaign, which went wrong from the opening game with a loss to Argentina, a defeat to Greece, with the now infamous kick out to a Greece player by Sanni Kaita, which earned him a red card and a harrowing draw against South Korea.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni missed from three yards out after the Korean goalkeeper was well beaten while Obafemi Martins also missed a glorious chance to win the game and take Nigeria to the second round.
The result sees the Asians through to the Round of 16 as second-place finishers from Group B behind winners Argentina, and will meet Group A toppers Uruguay in the first stage of knockout play on 26 June in Nelson Mandela Bay. Nigeria, with just one point from their three matches, are heading for home to ponder what might have been.
The Nigerians, in dire need of a win to stay alive, dodged a bullet in only the second minute, when big Danny Shittu’s horrid clearance fell to the feet of Park Chu Young in a dangerous position on the right. The Monaco man’s low cross was picked out well by the sliding Lee Chung Yong, who sacrificed his body in a collision with Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama only to stroke wide of the near post. After that early scare, the Nigerians began to boss the play with their best moments of these finals. Coach Lars Lagerback opted for four attacking players in his starting-eleven, including Nwankwo Kanu, used for the first time in South Africa.
The positive approach paid off, the Super Eagles taking a lead in the 12th minute. Chidi Odiah wriggled his way up the right side with a classy piece of approach work and his low cross through the box was nailed into the corner by Kalu Uche, who snuck around his marker. The goal was met with a roar from the home crowd, in need of a boost after their beloved Bafana Bafana were eliminated earlier in the day.
Nigeria continued to push forward as the half wore on, with Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi going close and Kanu and Yakubu Ayegbeni combining well in the advanced positions. The Koreans, who looked so organised in their first match, were getting pushed around and losing their shape as the half wound down. Uche nearly doubled his tally in the 36th minute, only to see his shot from distance slam off the upright to a groan from the crowd. The Asians, against the run of play, took full advantage and drew level with their first shot on goal. Lee Jung Soon heading home while all alone at the back post from a free-kick from Ki Sung Yueng seven minutes from the interval to see the period end with the scores level.
The Koreans came out in the second half looking lively. After Lee Young Pyo tested Enyeama in the opening seconds, danger-man Park Chu Young curled his direct free-kick around the wall and inside the back post from the corner of the penalty area to put the Taeguk Warriors on top 2-1 with just minutes gone.
Pockets of lively Korean fans were growing in confidence and voice, singing the anthems that propelled their men to the semi-finals as hosts in 2002, but they were nearly silenced when Yakubu was clear in on goal in the 59th minute. Only a last-ditch tackle from Cho Yong Hyung kept the big Everton man from a certain equaliser. ‘Yak’ was at the heart of the action again shortly after, missing a most egregious a sitter from six yards in the 66th minute, before showing the guts to step up to the spot three minutes later and draw level after Obasi was felled in the area.
A frenzied half-hour followed, with both sides going agonizingly close to tipping the balance and substitute Obafemi Martins missing a golden breakaway chance. But it was the Koreans players celebrating at the final whistle while Nigeria became the third of five African participants to fall at the first hurdle. By Christian Okpara, Johannesburg Sport