Ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier between the Super Eagles and the Chipolopolo on October 7, former Nigeria international Moses Kpakor,
in this exclusive interview withCompletesportsnigeria.com‘ JAMES AGBEREBI, recalls his memorable encounter, as a player, against the then KK Eleven of Zambia in 1990. He believes that Gernot Rohr will lead Nigeria to bag a decisive win in Uyo just as Clemens Westerhof did at Algiers ’90 Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals against the Zambians. Excerpts….As Super Eagles player, which memorable match against Zambia can you recall now?
I only played against Zambia once which was at Algiers 1990 Africa Cup of Nations. We made history as the first ever Nigerian team to beat a Zambian team at the Cup of Nations. We beat them 2-0 in the semifinals of Algiers ’90.How would you rate that Zambian team at the Algiers ’90 AFCON?They had great players then, but unfortunately, most of them died in a plane crash two years later. About five of them were my friends. I was friends with Whiteson Changwe, John Soko, who was in the Power Dynamo team that beat BCC Lions in the final of the 1991 Cup Winners’ Cup. There was Webster Chikabala and quite a number of them who were my friends. So for me, that Algiers ’90 Zambian team was a top team.What was the mood like in the Eagles camp before confronting them on the pitch, knowing that Nigeria had never beaten them before in the AFCON?
It’s not everything a coach will tell you. But when you have players who are aware of certain events, you will achieve your goal. We knew we were going to be the first Nigerian team to beat a Zambian team at the Cup of Nations, and at the end of the day, we did
Aside from creating the record, we had our own sour mood because after losing 5-1 to Algeria in the opening game, Clemence Westerhof called us and said those things we did against Algeria and lost heavily, if we should do those things again against Zambia, we will lose. And after defeating them, the celebration was massive, we were very excited. Though we beat them, that Zambian team was not a team you could underrate.
How would you compare the Zambian team you faced back then and the current Chipolopolo team?
The Zambian team of that time was full of talented talented players. They were known as the KK eleven (Kenneth Kaunda) then. They were one of the best teams in Africa. Even when we defeated them, we were surprised because they were so good. The team had pace, raw strength and was very good on the ball.
So what was the secret of the Super Eagles’ win against Zambia at Algiers’90 AFCON?
Kudos to Nigeria coach then, Clemens Westerhof, who was a good tactician. I believe he had watched Zambia matches and was aware that we might not match them with the tip-tap football. It seemed almost impossible. So what did we do? We played a 3-5-2 formation and dominated the midfield. We stopped them from playing their tip-tap style of football. They kept the ball, but we marked, and whenever we won the ball, went on a counter attack. So whatever they played, we had more chances to win the match. And thanks to Uche Okechukwu and Rashidi Yekini who scored our two goals.
Do you believe Zambia would have qualified for the 1994 World Cup if most of their players of that generation didn’t perish in a plane crash in 1993? They had a very tough qualifying group for the USA ’94 World Cup which included Morocco and Senegal.I believe they would have qualified because they had a very strong team. Kalusha Bwalya was in the team and was lucky not to have travelled with them and also other good players. So I believe they would have qualified for the 1994 World Cup.
Now, looking at the crucial 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier coming up between Nigeria and Zambia in Uyo on October 7, what are your expectations?
I am very optimistic that the Super Eagles will not only beat Zambia, but will also beat Algeria away enroute to the World Cup.
But what about the element of surprise in football because they are on a high now especially after picking six points against Algeria?
For me Algeria are the whipping team in the group. That they beat Algeria does not mean they will do the same against us in Uyo. Their team is not as good as our team. Remember we beat them away. I agree they will want to come for revenge, but I don’t see them winning here. If we don’t lose to Zambia, mathematically we are already on our way to Russia.
Are you surprised that despite the makeup of the Group B, the Super Eagles are so dominant?
When the draw was made, I never saw it as a ‘group of death’. I remember stating in an interview that the Super Eagles will beat Cameroon and it came to pass. This current Super Eagles team is good, even when they lost to South Africa, I said because it was a different tournament. The spirit of the boys for the World Cup qualifier is quite fantastic, it has been splendid. Even against Cameroon in Yaounde, if not for the referee, we would have won. But I am pleased with their efforts so far.Thank you for your timeYou’re welcome.
INTERVIEW – Kpakor: How Nigeria Beat Zambia At Algiers ’90; Super Eagles Will Win In Uyo