Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President Amaju Pinnick is confident that the Super Eagles can turn their fortunes around in Group D despite losing their Russia 2018 World Cup opener against Croatia.
Goals from Oghenekaro Etebo (own goal) and Luka Modric (penalty) condemned Nigeria to a 2-0 loss against the Europeans in the clash played at the Kaliningrad Stadium on Saturday night.
Pinnick was speaking about the team and its prospect of making the next round through a statement released by the NFF Director of Communications, Ademola Olajire.
In his words, Pinnick said: “Croatia made good from set pieces in Kaliningrad on Saturday, winning 2-0 to top Group D ahead of Argentina and Iceland, who finished 1-1 and have one point each.”
“We expected to win against Croatia but it did not happen and the whole team, as well as the federation have put that behind us and looking ahead with hope to the next two matches.
“I have spoken with the coach and the players and they have confidence that the job can be done.
“They feel bad to have lost the first match and are determined to go out there and do what they have to do against Iceland on Friday.” He concluded.
While speaking further, Pinnick, who is also a Confederation of African Football (CAF) Executive Committee member, said: “Losing your first match of a major competition is not an automatic exit ticket. Spain lost their first match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals and still went ahead to win the tournament.”
“We have a young team that can achieve so much with the right attitude and invention, and we must now reach deep down for those qualities when we play Iceland in Volgograd.
“Argentina and Iceland, who have one point each, are ahead of Nigeria as well as table – toppers Croatia, but victory against Iceland will earn the Eagles three points and second place in Group D.
”If Croatia emerge unscathed against Argentina in Nizhni Novgorod on Thursday,” He added.
Pinnick then called on Nigerians to continue to support the team despite the disappointing result from the first game against Croatia.
He said: “The Federal Government through the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, who is here in Russia supporting the team and giving them words of encouragement, has appealed to Nigerians to keep supporting the team.”
“The NFF is also appealing to them to continue to encourage the team with kind words and prayers.
“At this tournament, world champions West Germany have lost their first match; Argentina has been held to a draw; 2010 World Cup winners Spain have been held to a draw and; Brazil could not defeat Switzerland.
“’France even struggled before defeating Australia with a late goal. So much is still possible.” The NFF President concluded.
Head coach Gernot Rohr and his players have started preparations ahead of their second group game against Iceland scheduled for the 45,000-capacity Volgograd Arena in Volgograd on Friday.
They returned to their team base camp in Essentuki on Sunday after the game against the Croatians on Saturday.