Nigeria coach Shuaibu Amodu has insisted it is time for his team to excel if they want to maintain their 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualification hopes. The 51-year-old will face the toughest 90 minutes of his fourth spell in charge of the Super Eagles when they visit Tunisia in a match that has potential to dictate the final standings in African Zone, Group 2.
Three points will elevate Nigeria into pole position, while anything less will extend Tunisia's run atop of the pool. "We can't be average, we have to rise above that and put extra effort, Amodu told FIFA.com.
"We want to qualify for the World Cup, but we have to take it one step at a time. We have a big goal, and it's important to break it down into smaller pieces. We need to concentrate on each match, every game we play is important. We don't take any opponents for granted, the players are aware that they have to show special respect to all teams."
The Nigerians left Abuja, where they had their initial training camp, earlier this week, and headed to Malta for their final preparations before flying to Tunis. While securing a ticket to South Africa 2010 is Nigeria's principal objective, Amodu also has his sights set on winning next year's CAF African Cup of Nations - an accolade that has eluded the Nigerians for over a decade. They won the competition in 1994, beating Zambia 2-1 in the final, and last appeared at the FIFA World Cup at Korea/Japan 2002, where they finished bottom of their group with only one point to show.
Nigeria had a rocky start to their campaign, narrowly escaping defeat at the hands of Mozambique in Maputo. That game exposed some flaws in their team, but Amodu believes these will have been rectified by the time they take on a Tunisia side he holds in high regard. "They are a good side, we respect them a lot. I think they are also potential candidates," he said.
Tunisia have taken maximum points from two games in Group B. However, after away wins in Kenya and Mozambique, they face a true acid test in the visit of Nigeria.
"We're doing very well in these qualifiers, essentially because of the qualities of our group," said Tunisia midfielder Houcine Ragued. "Our squad is pretty young, but is full of very good players and is very united.We're aware of the fact that winning this game would lead us into a very good position in qualifying, especially as winning against a team like Nigeria could shock a bit all our opponents.
"That said, we shouldn't think about that too much in order to leave the pressure on Nigeria, who definitely need to win.Nigeria has been, is and will always be a great football nation in the world. They've always had very good players and we're respecting them a lot. But we also have good guys and I'm sure this game will be a great one.