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Lagos, Nigeria See Profile
Celebration, As Nigeria Picks World Cup Ticket

Lagos — It was celebration galore from every nook and cranny of the country  yesterday and great relief for players and Nigerians at the Moi International Sports Centre in Nairobi, Kenya when the Super Eagles survived a huge scare from the Harambee Stars to secure the sole Group B ticket to the next year's World Cup finals in South Africa.

This came on the heels of a pass mark given the country by the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) over what it called Nigeria's successful hosting of the U1-7 Championship, Nigeria 2009, which ends today

The Nigerians, who received a huge helping hand from Mozambique, who beat group leaders Tunisia 1-0 in Maputo, were overwhelmed with joy when the Seychelles referee signaled the end of the match.

For the players, their joy knew no bounds as they hugged and danced after the game clearly delighted that they had pulled the chestnut out of the fire by not only coming behind to win but also ensuring that they atoned for the country's missing out of the last finals in Germany.

"Its God's work," said a clearly overwhelmed Nwankwo Kanu, while Yakubu Aiyegbeni, who scored the second goal, praised the collective effort of his team mates in delivering the goods for the country.

"I want to give praise to God and my fellow players for making this happen. It is a collective effort not just we, the goal scorers, but every player because without them we would not have been able to score on our own."

John Obi Mikel, who perhaps played his best match for the Eagles since his national team debut at the 2006 Nations Cup finals in Egypt, said he was overwhelmed and very delighted to have been part of history.

"We never gave up even though it appeared we had lost it when we drew against Tunisia in Abuja. We were determined to make Nigerians happy by being part of the World Cup," said Mikel, who can now join two of his Chelsea team mates, Didier Drogba and Michael Essien, in planning for South Africa 2010.

And the Eagles had every reason to be over the moon as they did not have it easy. All talk about the Kenyans making it easy for the Super Eagles quickly went up in smoke as the home side took the battle to their more illustrious foes clearly determined to compensate themselves for losing out on South Africa 2010 by securing a ticket to next January's African Cup of Nations, which a win over the Nigerians would have given them.

Dennis Oliech put Kenya ahead in the 16th minute when he beat goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, with a low shot. Martins tied it in the 62nd off a pass from Peter Odemwingie, and Nigeria went ahead three minutes later when Aiyegbeni Yakubu hit a post and converted the rebound.

Unhappy Kenyan fans then forced a halt to the game when they began throwing plastic bottles onto the pitch but the game resumed as soon as the pitch was cleared of debris.

However, Nigerian fans in the lower part of the stands were not as fortunate as missiles continued to rain down on them from the Kenyans seated in the higher sections.

Allan Wetende drew the Stars level again when he scored off a header in the 79th, to further pile more misery on Nigerian fans, who were also frantically calling home in order to keep abreast of unfolding developments in Maputo.

As at that time, the scores between the Black Mambas and the Carthage Eagles was goalless, which was good news because it meant Nigeria was in the frame for the World Cup ticket.

But Wetende's strike had changed the equation and meant the Eagles were out unless they found a winning goal.

For many fans, it appeared to be déjà vu as they painfully remembered what happened in Abuja when Tunisia also struck a late equalizer to deny the Eagles victory

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