Football: Super Eagles 'can win the cup'

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THE NIGERIAN coach, Bora Milutinovic, yesterday claimed that his Super Eagles could go all the way to World Cup glory.

Nigeria, tipped by many for a starring performance at these finals, are already assured of a berth in the second round following Group D wins over the pre-tournament favourites for the section, Spain, and Bulgaria.

Milutinovic was trying to keep his optimism under wraps at their training base today as he prepared his men to face Paraguay in Toulouse tomorrow. But there was no hiding his satisfaction with the side's six points.

"The team have played two matches and won them both, but we've got another one against Paraguay and then we'll find out who we're playing next," said the Serb.

"I'm very happy for the team with the way things have gone," he went on. "Everything convinces me about this side, because these players on their day can beat anyone. They've got great talent and they play all their matches to win."

The question which many people want answered at France 98 is whether the popular Nigerians can go all the way and make football history by becoming the first African side to win the trophy.

Milutinovic's verdict was: "Why not? There are other teams who are better than us but in life, and in the World Cup finals, everything is possible.

"The important thing, I believe, is to play with confidence, with enthusiasm and with team spirit."

Milutinovic claimed he had not taken revenge on the critics who, shortly before the finals, had questioned whether he was the right man for the job.

"I'm just trying to do the things which I think need to be done, and it's difficult to keep everyone happy," he said. "For the moment, we're all just focusing on the game against Paraguay, the next match after that and then we'll see whether the team goes forward."

Milutinovic denied that he had already thought about possible future plans, saying: "A coach never plans - other people decide."

The pain of losing a two-goal lead to Germany was doubled for Yugoslavia's coach, Slobodan Santrac, yesterday as he grappled with a lengthy injury list. Five players took knocks, giving Santrac a possible selection headache for Yugoslavia's final Group F game with the United States in Nantes on Thursday.

The striker Darko Kovacevic picked up a thigh muscle injury against Germany and is rated doubtful for the US game. Zeljko Petrovic, who has answered his critics with two fine performances at left-back, was also limping after he suffered cramp and acute muscle spasms on Sunday.

The defenders Zoran Mirkovic and Miroslav Djukic both missed the 2- 2 draw with Germany and are doubtful for Thursday. Mirkovic has a leg injury while Djukic suffered a calf strain in training prior to the game. The fifth player on the injury list is Milan's Dejan Savicevic, who has missed both Yugoslavia's games so far with a knee problem.