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Utaka: What Rigobert Song Told Me Before Nigeria – Cameroon 2004 AFCON Clash

Utaka: What Rigobert Song Told Me Before Nigeria – Cameroon 2004 AFCON Clash

Former Nigeria international John Utaka has revealed what his former Lens teammate Rigobert Song told him before the AFCON 2004 quarter-final tie between Nigeria and reigning champions Cameroon.

The Eagles squared off against Cameroon in the last eight and triumphed 2-1 to progress into the semi-final.

A superb free-kick from Austin Okocha late in the first half and Utaka’s winner with less than 20 minutes remaining, secured the hardfought win for the Eagles.

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Cameroon took the lead through Samuel Eto’o towards the end of the first half.

But before the game Utaka relieved the encounter he had with Song who was skipper of Cameroon then.

“I was joking with him [Rigobert Song] when we were coming out from the tunnel, I wanted to greet him and he said I shouldn’t touch him but it was a joke,” Utaka said on Instagram Live.

“After the game, he congratulated me and said there was nothing much they could do and wished me well.”

Recalling the pressure on the Eagles players before the game, Utaka said: “The intensity of the match was crazy, coming out from the tunnel, you can feel the heat but that’s the joy of playing football, that tension, that pressure is the beauty of the whole thing. he continued.

“You are coming out the crowd is singing. When I say tension, you know like 200 million people are watching. It’s like a do-or-die affair.

“We know the team we are facing were a very, very good team – top strikers, midfielders, defenders. They were the defending champions, very strong team. One way or the other we needed to go past them.”

And on his goal which came off a brilliant assist from Nwankwo Kanu, the 2002 and 2010 World Cup star said: “Papilo [Kanu] you know is so crafty. When I watched the game later, I saw the way he positioned his body before he played the pass, he confused the defenders, they were thinking he was going to play left,” Utaka said on Instagram Live.

“I knew what he was going to do, so immediately I wasn’t even waiting, I started going. Against Angola away he did the same thing, that was years after.

“Whenever I see him positioning himself I’ll go because I know he will drop the pass. When I got that ball I said the only thing I can do is not to waste time because the goalkeeper will close down the more I waste time.

“I was looking right but I knew I was going to play left, he got a slight touch on the ball.

“I needed to drag him to the right so that I can confuse him because the goalkeeper is huge as well. I said if I take one more touch, he will close down on me so I said let me release the ball first time. ”

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  • Omo9ja 4 years ago

    Quick thinking and good vision
    are the qualities of great strikers.
    You were among the best strikers
    Nigeria ever produced after late
    Rashidi Yekini.

    When we are talking about Nigerian strikers, your name must be there. For me,

    1. Rashidi Yekini
    2. Agali
    3. Obafemi Martins
    4. Utaka
    5. Agahowa
    6. Yakubu
    7. Nsofor
    8. Osaze

    However, currently, Osemhen
    is the main striker we have now.
    He has the qualities. Osemhen
    will be scoring for fun if the
    gaffer knows how to use Ejeria well.

    Ejeria is our new Kanu.
    Azeez is another raw talent too.
    That guy is a talented player.
    I hope coach Rohr it taking note.

    What of Aribo? Etobo chai,
    we have players. To manage the
    team to win trophies
    is what the manager needs to
    work on.

    Mr. Rohr Have tried. Kudos to him.

    He just needs to do more. Super Eagles
    should be able to win something
    meaningful soon. I’m happy that
    with the help or support of ex
    players, the manager
    will get things right.

    Thanks for your efforts Mr. Utaka.
    We love you. God bless Nigeria!!!

    • You are right @Omo9ja, Utaka was a quiet and skilful hard worker. I liked him a lot then. And Papilo? Oh, another shade of magician – different from Okocha. Unpredictable and crafty. A complete match-winner on his day. Oh, will be able to get another Kanu or Okocha again?

      Although, from your list of SE’s best strikers, I’ll take out Agali, Nsofor and Yakubu and grade them in Team B, alongside Benedict Akwuegbu and Raphael Chukwu Ndukwe.

  • Pompei 4 years ago

    In this article, Utaka gives us a peep into the complexities of international football. When 2 nations collide on the pitch, it is never an easy thing. The best 11 players at that point in time from both nations are on the pitch, playing for national pride and personal fortune.
    Utaka’s account of his goal against Cameroun shows us how much thought and talent is on display in big matches. From Kanu’s deceptive body positioning in the midfield, to the pass which released Utaka, to Utaka’s decision making in front of the Cameroun goalie, we see thought and talent at its finest.
    In football, 22 human beings are on the pitch playing the round leather.
    Nigerians have a saying – MAN PASS MAN.
    This is true in every sphere of human endeavor, including football!
    Some men have bigger egos and desire to win than others. And this is a huge factor that decides big games. Like when Utaka and Rigobert Song met in the tunnel. Song then was a player with huge stature, so Utaka could have folded under the pressure of meeting such a big player. But he did not!
    I once saw a picture of Kanu and Ronaldinho having a conversation. It struck me that Ronaldinho was talking to Kanu with great respect, much as a younger man would talk to a “big uncle”, or someone he considers his superior. In turn, Kanu was talking to him like a “small boy”, not disrespectfuly. But in such a way that if you look at them, you could easily see who the bigger personality is. Kanu is an example of a player who is humble and down to earth, but also believes he can beat anybody. And that ego and desire to win served him well throughout his career. On many occasions, against opponents that seemed much bigger in stature than him, Kanu excelled and prospered.
    That game we lost to Italy in 1994, some say Westerhof sold us out. Some say the ref cheated. But in addition to all that, I believe that our players were also responsible. Our team was very talented, one of the best in the world at that time. But talent alone does not win matches, especially the big ones. Deep inside, our boys felt inferior to Italy. In their minds, they did not really believe that they could come out winners against players like Roberto Baggio, Costacurta, Albertini, Dino Baggio, etc. They allowed this inferiority complex to weigh them down, which is why a game that could have been over in the first half, was allowed to drag on to the final minutes, when Baggio equalized. With proper confidence and self belief, Italy could have been done and dusted, long before the final whistle.
    It seemed some of the players in the 1994 set learned from this experience, because 2 yrs later at the Atlanta olympics, they displayed courage and desire that saw them defeat powerful opponents like Brazil and Argentina on their way to the gold medal. The difference in the outcome of these matches was down to confidence and self belief.
    Our players today have shown that they are highly talented and strong as a team. But to succeed on the big stage, they must believe. Osimhen must believe that he can progress at the world cup, at the expense of Mbappe. Aribo must believe that he can progress at the expense of Kevin DeBruyne. Chukwueze should be ready to send Messi back home to Argentina. Ekong should be ready to move ahead at the expense of Virgil Van Dijk.
    Rohr must work to instill confidence and self belief in the players. Respect your opponent, without feeling inferior to him. It’s a dog eat dog world in football. Only those with the biggest egos and the biggest desire usually advance.
    Go big, or go home.

    • Chairmanfemi 4 years ago

      Pompei! Pompei! Pompei! I wish I could like this a Hundred times. Ahh…how I wish Super Eagles players can read this and also hope this would get to Gernot Rohr. God bless you for this.

      As much as I love how Gernot Rohr has handled the Super Eagles over the years, if he should be handed a New Contract, he just have to stick to this article cuz this next contract is a Must win 2021 AFCON and at least a Quarter Final finish at the 2022 World Cup. And for him to that, he has to instill Confidence in the team. Stop calling them Young boys abi na Young team! Yes we know they are young but stop giving them average mentality and stop making them feel inferior to Big teams. The world has really evolved. The Young ones are even the ones testing Old Cargos apart. This team I thought to myself few days ago while lying down on my bed can wreck havoc on any team in the world if they are handled well. Give them a Guardiola kind of Motivation! I watch the Off-Field speech Guardiola gives to Man City players before, during half time matches as a Man City fan…mehn! Even you wey no be player will feel motivated and the boys will be so hungry for Victory. That Mentality has helped us win matches big time. Manchester City I Stan…winks lol

      So, GERNOT ROHR. Please anything short of those heights we’ve set for you this time, I as a Loyal Eagles fan will be the first to campaign for his instant removal! I listened to the Minister of Sports this morning on AIT concerning the Coach of the Super Eagles and I’ll try to quote him word for word:

      “Rohr(though he called him Roar) has done well. Yes, we deserve the Best Coach in the World. If you take a look at the players we have in the Super Eagles today, they play for the Best clubs and they are very sharp. So we need a coach who is even sharper and smarter. So I don’t care if he’s a Rohr or a Road”

      Those words sounded to me that Gernot Rohr’s contract is not sure. Though am not happy but my own is if the Coach they are going to hire is not better than Rohr, they shouldn’t try it! No Indigenous Coach can beat him at the moment for example so it’s a No-No to them please. Go for Top European Coaches if not, leave our Rohr jejely.

      #Soar Super Eagles

      • Pompei 4 years ago

        Chairmanfemi, well said. Like you, I also have big expectations for the SE in 2021 and 2022, and I believe that the ROARING ROHR is capable of taking us to the promised land.
        The minister did admit that Rohr has done well. And when someone does well at their job, the expectation is that the person will remain in that job. I am confident that Rohr will stay. He has too much invested in this team to just leave like that!

    • Pompei, should be immediately drafted to the Super Eagles. This is the tonic the players need from time to time, a winning mentality.
      You see these skippers;
      They had winning mentalities and were rugged andbit robbed off on the team.
      Jay Jay Okocha
      Are players that can play out all their heart, great winning mentality but not so rugged.
      You see that Osimhen, that young man is rugged, infact, we are yet to see half his potentials.
      Super Eagles need a combination of both in their key players.
      Rohr needs to be schooled on winning mentality and ruggedity. He is a good coach though, but he needs it.
      Remember, how President Buhari sounded before the presidential elections, it is that kind of belief, I mean.

      • Pompei 4 years ago

        Nice comment, Evolution. I am not qualified for Super Eagles job ooo!
        But what I can do is point them in the right direction in this our CSN forum.
        As you mentioned, we will continue to try to motivate our coach and the players, so they can over achieve. No place for mediocrity!
        Thanks again.

  • Chairmanfemi 4 years ago

    Correction to the Minister’s Quote:

    ***they play for the Best clubs, coached by top Coaches in Europe….so I don’t care if it’s a Rohr or a Roar!*****

    CSN abeg do us well with Edit button. Thanks

  • Osagie 4 years ago

    You did not mention
    These are all better than Aghahowa, Agali and Yakubu

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