Festus Odini, a FIFA U-17 World Cup winner, said the Super Eagles of Nigeria will have no excuse not to qualify for the 2026 World Cup hosted by Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
The former Golden Eaglets star said this in reaction to Nigeria’s listing in Group C alongside South Africa, Benin Republic, Rwanda, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.
The Japan 1993 U-17 World Cup winner stated that Nigeria must not underrate any team, especially the likes of South Africa and Benin who he sees as possible threats to the Super Eagles.
“That group appears to be easy for Nigeria but in football nowadays, you should know that there are no longer pushovers,” Odini told The Guardian.
“Every country wants to go to the World Cup as the Mundial is a very big stage which every footballer dreams to play in.
“As far as I am concerned, all hands must be on deck if we really want to qualify for the 2026 World Cup.”
When asked if he was confident that the Super Eagles can top the group with relative ease, Odini said that nothing is 100 percent guaranteed in football and Nigeria like every other teams must earn a place in the World Cup.
According to him, this time around, the Super Eagles have to give their best during the qualification phase as no excuse will justify their failure to qualify for the World Cup having missed out on the 2022 edition in Qatar.
“Nigeria must do everything possible to go through to the next edition of the global showpiece and to achieve that, we must have very good preparations,” odini said.
“This is because on paper, we might be stronger than most of the countries in our group but football nowadays is no respecter of anybody.
“Just like I said earlier, every country wants to be in the World Cup and as for me, I believe that South Africa will give us a few things to think about.”
One of Nigeria’s Group C opponents Republic of Benin is coached by Gernot Rohr, who was sacked as Super Eagles manager in December 2021. Odini said Rhor will see the grouping as an opportunity make a statement by beating Nigeria.
“He would do everything within his power to tell us that we did not do the right thing for sacking him, that we made a huge mistake for sending him away like that,” he said.
“We too must tell him that we have a genuine reason for sacking him by defeating the Republic of Benin both at home and away and then reaching the Mundial.”