June 17, 2010

Greece 2, Nigeria 1: It may surprise people, but it was only about ten years ago that a lot of people thought that the Nigerians were on the verge of being the next great soccer power. They got out of their first round group pretty easily in 1994 and 1998, and won the gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. The last time they made the Cup, in 2002, they were placed in the Group of the Church Triumphant, as my last paternal grandmother would have said, and they were eliminated only after two one-goal losses to Sweden and Argentina. Even in defeat, they could ball.

Now they can't even beat Greece, which until today had never scored in a World Cup Game, much less given anyone a challenge. In all fairness, they were ahead after the Greeks conceded what will likely be the longest goal of the tournament, a rather innocuous-looking free kick by Kalu Uche that no one bothered to pick up, and seemed dominant until one of the dumbest ejections this side of Rasheed Wallace. Long live Sokratis Papastathopoulos !!

And believe it or not, Nigeria still has a decent chance of advancing to the next round. After the athletic fart the South Koreans cut today, there is no reason the Super Eagles can't win their final first round game next Tuesday, nor is there any reason to believe the Greeks can beat or tie the Argentinians. Should both of those events happen, Nigeria is through, in spite of its back-to-back losses.

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