Abakaliki — Football stakeholders in Abakaliki have called for prayers for the Super Eagles in its upcoming showdown with the Elephants of Cote d' Ivoire in the quarter-finals of the ongoing AFCON.
The stakeholders were reacting to the team's qualification for the knock-out stages of the competition in South Africa, after beating Ethiopia 2-0 to place second behind Burkina Faso in Group C.
Most of the fans said that the team would need divine intervention to advance beyond the quarter-finals, following its uninspiring performances at the group stage of the tournament.
They believe that the Eagles would be overwhelmed by the more-accomplished Ivoirien team that boasts of an array of talented footballers.
Mr Godwin Eze, the Proprietor of Mgbo Ambassadors FC, the state's 2012 FA champions, said that the Elephants embodied a classic example of effective team building.
"The present Ivoirien team has been together since 2005 and has remained consistent in the continent since then.
"In spite of its reputation, the cup had kept eluding it and the team has not been disbanded but instead had new players injected into its problem areas.
"The Nigerian team, in contrast, has been undergoing a rebuilding process since 2004, with new players injected into the team in an all-comers trend," he said.
Chief Emmanuel Aleke, a former Legislator, said that the Elephants represented a sharp contrast to the Eagles in all departments of the game.
"The team is near-perfect in team cohesion, commitment and general technicality, which the Eagles currently lack.
"We all prayed to avoid Cote d' Ivoire at this stage but now we have no other choice but to tackle what we have before us," he said.
Nduka Ezeakum, a footballer, noted that the Eagles' problem was mainly its incessant disbandment and changing of coaches, which leaves it in perpetual transition.
"Some of the Togolese players in this competition for instance, were there in the 2006 team under Stephen Keshi, and are still in the present team.
"Most of the players who achieved great feats under Clemens Westerhof were clubless at one time or the other, but still excelled with the team because they were seen as an integral part of it," he said.
Mrs Ifeoma Osochi, a Human Rights Activist, however, called on the players not to be intimated by the myth surrounding their quarter-final opponents.
"Their performances have not been convincing, as divine intervention will only be effective if they correct all noticeable lapses and play with a greater sense of commitment," she said.
Mr Victor Okike, a banker, also called on Nigerians to continue praying, and to exercise patience with the team.
"It is true that the team has been disappointing but we must wait to see how it would eventually fare before passing final judgment," he added. (NAN)