Nigeria’s Super Eagles and 31 other national teams will know their group stage opponents tomorrow as FIFA stages the World Cup draws in Moscow.
Without question, the eyes of the footballing world will be on the Russian capital as the competing nations discover their opponents.
Expectations in Nigeria include being grouped along with Lionel Messi’s Argentina, who they met in the 1994 World Cup.
Millions of football fans will watch with baited breath, waiting to map out their favourite team’s path through the tournament.
Even football’s most prized players, Messi,Ronaldo and Neymar also said they would be full of expectations in interviews with FIFA.com. “I’m relaxed because, although some teams are stronger than others, all the groups will be balanced. I’m calm because I know that, when the time comes, the team will be ready,” explained a laid-back Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Whoever we’re drawn against, we have to win, no matter what,” he added with characteristic determination.
“I’ll be following it, so long as we don’t have training or a match,” confirmed Lionel Messi, who also confessed that he was already imagining who Argentina’s potential opponents might be.
Like Ronaldo, Neymar was in relaxed mood. “I believe that we’re ready to take on anyone.”
But the Brazilian also admitted that this Friday would not be just another day, and that he already had plans for the draw.
“We’re going to put some popcorn in the microwave, and call family and friends. Everyone will have a keen eye on the television.”
The Russian capital, which celebrated its 870th anniversary in September, is no stranger to football fever.
This huge, sprawling city fell in love with the sport way back in Soviet times, and the relationship endures to this day.
The World Cup draw in the Kremlin on Friday launches Russia’s bid to turn a page on its history of football hooliganism and racism while warding off a terror threat linked to Moscow’s intervention in Syria.
The success of the tournament is also a matter of personal pride for Vladimir Putin after the Russian strongman helped wrest the June 14-July 15 competition from England in an ugly 2010 battle before relations with the West dramatically collapsed over Ukraine.
It is an $11.5-billion (9.7-billion-euro) gamble for which many of the 11 host cities underwent their first major post-Soviet facelifts with the potential to create the same “white elephant” stadiums and hotels left behind by the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
And the 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) between the westernmost stadium in Kaliningrad near Poland and easterly one in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg — the same distance separating Paris and Moscow — will test the fans’ resolve.