Though many Nigerians are still reeling in shock over Sunday’s unexpected ouster of the Super Eagles from the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, the team is set to shift focus to the next big assignment ahead of them; the World Cup playoff.
The Nigeria national team was stunned in their AFCON Round of 16 clash against Tunisia; losing 1-0 to the Carthage Eagles, who qualified for the quarter-final, where they will face Burkina Faso’s Stallions.
President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, in a statement issued on Monday, commended the efforts of the Super Eagles, but was quick to point out the need to start gearing for the double-header against Ghana in the race to make it to Qatar 2022.
The two-legged tie is billed for March 2022.
He said: “We are proud of the efforts of the players. They gave their all and tried very hard to win, even when they had a numerical disadvantage. It was just not our day.
“I want to thank His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari for his love, support, and encouragement to the team while they were in the championship. I also praise the Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr Sunday Dare for his interest and attention to the progress of the team.
“Losing at this stage is painful, but we take solace in the great spirit with which the team approached its four matches in Cameroon, out of which it won three.
“The focus and attention will now shift to the FIFA World Cup qualifying play-off against Ghana in March. We want to assure Nigerians that we will prepare even harder for those two matches to get the job done.”
Having failed in the quest for a fourth continental title, the Super Eagles will have to double up to ensure they make it to Qatar.
Since making a debut appearance at the USA 1994 World Cup, the Super Eagles have qualified for all but one of the subsequent editions of the Mundial.
Though Nigeria failed to make it beyond the group stage at the Russia 2018 World Cup, it achieved that feat at both the USA 1994, France 1998, and Brazil 2014 editions.
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will run from November 21, to December 18, with 32 teams competing in eight groups.
The full schedule is to be confirmed after the final draw in April 2022.