Football / World Cup USA '94: Nigeria set their sights on Yorath as next coach

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The Independent Online
TERRY YORATH, the former manager of Wales, is being lined up to become the new coach of Nigeria, the flamboyant Africans who are creating World Cup fantasy here and are many people's tip to win the event. Clemens Westerhof, who on Thursday saw his team book their place in the second round, seems certain to leave his post no matter how far they progress.

Even though Yorath was sacked by Wales at the end of the qualifying series he has maintained a fine reputation both in the domestic game and abroad. John Fashanu, the Wimbledon striker, who is in the United States as an ambassador for Nigerian football, has approached him about the impending vacancy and said: 'Terry is an intelligent coach who did an excellent job for Wales. He was treated disgracefully, considering how close they came to reaching the finals. I have discussed the situation with him and he's keen to get involved.'

Yorath has also been sounded out to take charge of the Egyptian national team as well as by Malaysia. He wants to return to the game and is 'flattered' that the Africans have turned to him. 'I have spoken to John Fashanu a lot in recent weeks and I also had a chat with the president of the Nigerian FA,' he said. 'It's a question now of seeing something down on paper.'

Despite his success Westerhof is not popular in Nigeria, and the Dutchman has courted controversy with allegations that he made money out of selling his players to European clubs.

It is an enticing opportunity for Yorath or whoever is to take over. Nigeria are among the most exciting of the World Cup contenders and, as winners of the world under-17 championships last September, there is more talent emerging and waiting to explode.

In a dramatic finale to Group D Westerhof's assortment of stars, who mix exotic skill with muscular power and outstanding pace, only secured their place at the head of the section with a second goal against Greece in injury time. It means they stay in Boston for the next stage. Minutes before, with Bulgaria going 2-0 ahead over Argentina, they were staring at a third place finish and a tiring flight to Los Angeles.

So now they face Italy, who may provide a more difficult examination of their potential than Romania or Mexico would have done. Nevertheless, topping the group is good for morale while also providing a sense of justice. They were aggrieved that, following Maradona's suspension for drug use after the Argentina-Nigeria game, Fifa was not prepared to alter the result of the match. Nigeria also moaned about Maradona's devious diving and writhing when they lost last weekend but Sunday Oliseh said: 'We have to be realistic. If we had players as good as him at doing that, we would do it, too.'

In fact, Nigeria were threatening to walk out of the competition and fly home if that result had been both relevant and allowed to stand. That no longer applies because of the impeccable timing of Daniel Amokachi, another of the young Super Eagles who are set to soar.

'The coach told me that Bulgaria had just scored a second and we needed to get another ourselves,' he said. 'And Amokachi said just to get the ball and to go through the Greek defence. I needed a bit of luck but I got it and it was beautiful. It was a very important goal for my country and an honour for me.'

The 21-year-old midfield player earns his money in Belgium with Club Bruges. Others decorate the leagues in France, the Netherlands, Greece and Portugal. Fashanu believes a favourable impression against the Italians on Tuesday will open even bigger doors.

'They are going to be known all over the world. They have the ability to go all the way in the tournament. People say their defence will let them down but you can't have it both ways. On the one hand you can't have a wonderfully attacking team full of flair and variety and at the same time a defence as rigid, say, as Germany.'

Apart from all his other work - he is also commentating for BBC Television here - Fashanu is negotiating to bring Nigeria over to face Terry Venables' new look England next season.

NIGERIA (4-4-2): Rufai (Go Ahead Eagles); Keshi (no club), Emenalo (RWD Molenbeek), Okechukwu (Fenerbahce), Nwanu (Anderlecht); Siasia (Nantes), George (Ajax), Oliseh (Reggiana), Amunike (MSV Duisburg); Amokachi (Club Bruges), Yekini (Olympiakos). Substitutes: Okocha (Eintracht Frankfurt) for Yekini, 69; Adepoju (Santander) for George, 84.

GREECE (3-6-1): Karkamanis (Aris Salonika); Alexiou (PAOK Salonika), Kalitzakis (Panathinaikos), Karayannis (AEK Athens); Hantzidis (Olympiakos), Tslaouhidis (Olympiakos), Nioplias (Panathinaikos), Kofidis (Aris Salonika), Mitropoulos (AEK Athens), Alexandris (AEK Athens); Machlas (OFI Crete). Substitutes: Tsiantakis (Olympiakos), for Mitropoulos, 72; Dimitriadis (AEK Athens) for Machlas, 79.

(Photograph omitted)

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