The Super Eagles of Nigeria have arrived in South Africa ready to erase the memories of missing out on the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ and desperate to get among the South Africa 2010 challengers.
Nigeria landed at the newly-constructed King Shaka International Airport in Durban on Wednesday to start their preparations in the coastal city, where they should experience a warmer climate than the rest of South Africa. Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback is aware of the bumps in the road that lies ahead, but he said he is relishing the challenge of leading the Super Eagles in their bid to soar to the heights at the world's showpiece football event.
“First of all, I feel very privileged to be here and to be part of this World Cup – the first World Cup in Africa," Lagerback told FIFA.com upon the team arrival today. "We are looking forward to what we hope will be a good tournament. The few weeks [of being in charge of the team] have been wonderful for me. The players attitudes have been great, and the spirits are high. We have had great preparations."
A lot was expected from Nigeria at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Angola – an event earlier this year that was seen as a dress rehearsal for African teams preparing for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Despite never seeming to be at their best, they finished third - a result that subsequently led to coach Shaibu Amodu being demoted from his job. Such is the pressure that comes with coaching the Super Eagles. Since then, a lot has changed.
Experienced coach Lars Lagerback was picked to take the coaching hot seat, one of the trickiest in Africa, just months before the World Cup finals. The former Sweden boss now has the weight of Nigeria's expectations on his shoulders, and he is aware of the task that lies ahead in the valleys of South Africa. A team that commands a huge following within South Africa and on the African continent at large, Nigeria will face tough opposition during the tournament. They will come up against Argentina in their World Cup opener at Ellis Park in Johannesburg in what should be their test of character. They will then face former European Champions, Greece in Mangaung/Bloemfontein before their final Group B match against Korea Republic.
“We have a very tough group, the quality of the opposition is very good, and what I know is that all the teams want to win" said Lagerback. "But the Super Eagles are ready to take on the world’s best. We know there are high expectations, especially from our fans. If we give our 100 per cent, we can beat any team. But I am happy with everything so far.”