Sadly, our treasured Nigeria won’t be playing in a major tournament this summer, although there are plenty of AFCoN and World Cup qualifiers to watch. This isn’t the same as the excitement and tension involved in major international competitions, though, so there will be plenty of eyes on the Euros.
Every self-respecting football supporter knows that a “second team” is allowed. The question is, which country should Nigerian followers choose?
Les Blues have consistently been among the favorites for the tournament and they currently have 6.00 odds to win the Euros alongside England. Fresh from winning the 2018 World Cup and armed with a deep squad that has talent in abundance, Didier Deschamps’ men will be hard to beat.
The relationship between France and Africa has been around for centuries, with millions of people from the continent making their way over to Europe for a better life. As a result, several of the current crops of the world champion’s squad has a deep heritage with the motherland. Paul Pogba, for instance, has Guinean parents.
Of course, what this also means is that there are lots of French-born footballers with Nigerian ties, making the connection between the two countries even more powerful. The fact that they are high-quality performers – the likes of Thomas Lemar and Ousmane Dembélé are two of the most coveted youngsters in world football – means it’s even easier to get behind Les Blues.
The French international team not only has top players with Nigerian heritage, but it has an excellent opportunity at glory.
England’s national team has links to Nigeria, too, with Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham both being eligible to play for the Super Eagles. The latter almost did, before pulling out and choosing England. Arsenal’s new teenage sensation, Bukayo Saka is another Brit with Nigerian ties that is making the country proud.
Nigeria are accelerating their attempts to snatch Arsenal wonderkid Bukayo Saka from England.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) July 23, 2020
Sure, the players named may not make it into Gareth Southgate’s squad this time around. However, Saka, in particular, is destined to grace the national team outfit for the next decade. Abraham and Tomori will get their chances, too. Also, we shouldn’t forget about the impact the EPL has had on Nigerian football in the last couple of decades.
By providing a platform for the likes of Nwankwo Kanu, Yakubu, and Jay-Jay Okocha to showcase their skills, we have benefitted massively from having world-class players on the global stage. Plus, having the 6.00 joint favorites as your second team is never a stupid move!
Austria may seem like a strange one, especially as there are other top teams with Nigerian representation. Italy and Angelo Ogbonna spring to mind. Still, it’s about more than the disparity in the quality of the teams, and therefore, the odds.
Italy are 10.00 and Austria 91.00 to win the entire tournament, respectively. Yet the Austrians have a player who has repped his Nigerian roots on the biggest stage – David Alaba. The Austrian captain was born and bred in Vienna, but he was happy to tell the world where he came from by waving the Nigerian national flag at Wembley Stadium after Bayern Munich’s Champions League victory in 2012/13.
With a man like that gracing the European Championships, it’s hard not to want him and his team to go all the way and upset the odds. Let’s face it – stranger things have happened!
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