Tunisia ’94 Africa Cup of Nations winner Edema Fuludu fears Zambia could wreck Nigeria’s dream of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The Super Eagles were in Cairo on June 24 handed a tough draw in the Russia 2018 qualifiers where they face their bitter rivals Cameroon and Algeria in Group B.
Gabon-Equatorial Guinea 2012 African champions Chipolopolo (the Bullets) are the only team in the group who have yet to make a World Cup appearance.
Four-time African champions Cameroon (1984, 1988, 2000, 2002) have appeared in the World Cup seven times (1982, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010, 2014), with three-time continental champions Nigeria (1980, 1994, 2013) playing in the championship five times (1994, 1998, 2002, 2010, 2014).
1990 African champions Algeria have featured in the tournament four times – ESPANA ’82, Mexico’ 86, South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014.
Although Chipolopolo open their World Cup qualifying campaign at home to the Super Eagles on October 3 as massive underdogs, former Nigeria midfielder Fuludu believes Zambia could claim crucial victory that could unsettle Nigeria throughout the rest of the qualifiers.
The former Turkey-based player says the biggest mistake the Eagles can make would be to underestimate the Southern Africans, who they laboured to beat them in the final of the Tunisia ’94 Africa Cup of Nations.
“Chipolopolo are a very resilient side,” the former Julius Berger star, who is the current Vice-Chairman of the Delta Football Association, told our correspondent on the telephone during the week.
“This made them African champions in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
“How can we underrate such a team?
“They may play soft against Algeria or Cameroon but certainly not against Nigeria.”
The former NNB star added, “I believe the Zambians are no pushovers in the group. We must respect them by preparing well for the encounters.”
He backed the decision of the Nigeria Football Federation to engage the services of a foreign coach for the Eagles, saying the move would help the team.
The retired player added, “I think (caretaker coach) Salisu Yusuf is good and has come through the ranks. I also want people to know that the NFF is eager to make the national team, succeed because the scorecard is tied to the senior national team particularly. There should be a middle-ground approach to make appreciable progress that can make us qualify.”
Fuludu called for support for the Eagles, saying the team’s World Cup chances should not be written off.
“Mikel Obi, Ahmed Musa and Victor Moses are players we can rely on but we need good preparations for the qualifiers,” he said.
“Consideration is a function of various factors. The capability of individual players is a big factor but there’s more in preparations and determination.”