HE SHOULD NOT RECALL THEM
By Omisakin Ayobami
Never change a winning team! That is the best advice a coach can ever receive. Apart from unforeseen circumstances like injury, sickness, etc., it is inconceivable that a coach would change his winning team. This is because such a change would disrupt the team -momentum, team- morale and team -cohesion, to mention but a few. That being said, it is pertinent to point out the fact that every rule has an exception. However, in the case of Keshi and the Super Eagles, can any exception to the rule be justified? My quick but thought-true answer is a big NO! Thus, as the blue-hue blood of my pen flows and I give words to my thoughts, I shall give you excuses to support my stand.
The issue of experience is very important in every tournament. It is obvious that just a few players in the current Super Eagles have ever been to the World Cup, hence, the call for the infusion of more experienced players. In as much as I agree that the Super Eagles need more experience, I beg to differ on the point that the likes of Yobo, Osaze and Uche will offer us the much needed experience. We need players who have tasted success at the World Cup but all we have are players that have experiences of failure at the mundial, all we have are players who have never progressed from the group stage. These are not the kind of players we need because in terms of World Cup experience, they are no different to the ones we currently have. A lot of self-acclaimed pundits claim that the Nigerian World Cup Team of 2002 were dumped out at the group stage due to a seeming lack of experience but the question I ask is this, did our “abundant experience” help us to fare better in our subsequent trips to the World Cup? The 1994 World Cup marked our first appearance at that level but it also marks our best ever appearance and none of the players in the ’94 team had prior World Cup experience. Keshi has successfully ingrained a winning psyche in the team and it would be fatal to add more players that have tasted World Cup failures.
Furthermore, an important factor that can help propel Nigeria beyond better teams at the World Cup is team cohesion. The Super Eagles team is not yet a coherent unit but efforts are being made to make it one compact unit, the fact that the team has more or less remained the same throughout qualification is a move in the right direction. The team’s hope to meet expectations at Brazil is dependent on its ability to play more as a team and the addition of “new players” would deal a devastating blow to the team spirit. Also, the fact that the addition of these players would bring more competition to the team should not be a welcome idea. Players who are consequently left behind or promoted to the bench would feel hard done; they would feel terrible that after helping the team qualify, they were ousted by some who just joined the party after all the hard work was done. This kind of thought could negatively affect the whole psyche of the team; majority of the players would feel that no matter how well they perform, the starting shirts would always belong to a select few. As it is, there is already enough healthy competition among the players.
In addition to all stated, the standard of discipline in the team could be compromised if some of the fringe players are recalled. For example, the likes of Osaze Odemwingie and even Joseph Yobo who felt they were bigger than the coach could trigger some disruptions within the team. Some might argue that they have learnt their lessons but the state of a man’s mind can never be really ascertained and the World Cup is too big to take a risk.
In conclusion, I bring to fore the words of Jesus Christ- the greatest teacher of all times, “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wine skins, or else the wine skins break, the wine is spilled, and the wine skins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wine skins, and both are preserved.” This team won the Nation’s Cup and qualified for the World Cup, they are good enough.
HE SHOULD RECALL THEM
By Umeike Chike
What a year it has been for the Super Eagles of Nigeria; a year that began with the Eagles crowned as African Champions, a not too disappointing performance at the Confederations Cup and ended on a high by clinching the World Cup ticket. With our group opponents known, the big question is: Should Keshi stick with those who have been flying with him or extend his hands to those still hanging in the air? There have been arguments that he should stick with them based on the fact that they got the World Cup ticket; so the principle of “what you sow, you reap” should apply, some others have said calling others might unsettle the team. I’m however of the view that the Big Boss should extend an olive branch to those who he has fallen out with and call-up those he feels merit it.
A popular saying goes “don’t change a winning team”. The reason for this is that a rapid change to a winning team would tamper and unsettle it. On the other hand, sticking with the same set of players could lead to a too comfortable and complacent team. The Eagles have been rightly commended for finally putting smiles on the faces of Nigerians after years of “sleeping pill” performances, but in all fairness, it’s only a couple of these players who have really been consistent all year. The likes of Vincent Enyeama, Godfrey Oboabona, John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike have all been the obvious stand outs. For example; Emmanuel Emenike is the only striker in the team who has really borne the goal scoring burden. The likes of Brown Ideye, Mohammed Gambo, Shola Ameobi and Bright Dike have either flattered to deceive or not been consistent at all. In order to make sure these stand out players don’t get carried away, they need some form of competition to keep them on their toes which would even ensure better performances. Let’s take a look at the Bayern Munich team. Pep Guardiola inherited an all-conquering team that won everything the previous season but the likes of Gotze and Thiago were still added to the side not to unsettle them but to amongst other reasons make sure no one got too comfortable. In contrast, look at the Manchester City team of last season. After winning the EPL in 2012, the club failed to add quality players as the likes of Rodwell, Javi Garcia and Maicon were not in any way improvements on the likes of Yaya Toure and Zabaleta. It was not surprising amongst other reasons that the performance of the team dipped last season. There have been those who have also failed to impress. Ahmed Musa is a good player with lightning speed but unfortunately his decision making still leaves a lot to be desired, his crossing erratic and his finishing exemplary, Ideye has had opportunities but still misses when it’s easier to score. Oduamadi has shown only flashes of his brilliance. For all of his twitter rants and clashes with coaches, Odemwingie still remains a better finisher than the above mentioned players and he’s got a decent goal scoring record with the Eagles .The Prodigal son has also indicated he would love to return. It means he’s learnt his lessons and Keshi has to embrace him if he deserves it. Ikechukwu Uche might have had a disappointing Nations Cup but he’s been brilliant so far with the Yellow Submarines of Villarreal. Sone Aluko has also been decent with Hull City in the English Premiership. Having these players hot on their tails means any fluff of chances could be a doom to their chances of being called up next time. He can only get the best out of his players if there’s competition or we would fall back into the dark ages where players literally strolled into the Eagles camp.
It might amaze you but only Enyeama, Echiejile and if you still add Yobo in the current Eagles setup that have ever played at the World Cup. That says a lot about the experience of this team at the international level. While it would look unfair to discard away with those who nicked the ticket for Nigeria, one cannot however over-emphasize the value of experience at this stage. This is no African Cup of Nations where we’ll face the likes of Ethiopia (with all due respect). Every little error, show of stage fright at this level would be punished. There would be games where they’ll be under the cosh, where they’ll have to dig deep and where they’ll have to draw out from the well of experience. Estranged players like Yobo and Odemwingie have participated at the World Cup and their wealth of experience would come in handy. Experience could be the difference between a victory and a loss. Situations of trying to hold on to a slender lead could come down to the experience of the team or not. Experience is also vital off the pitch. For most of these players, barring any injury, they would make their first appearance at the show piece and it’s only human that nerves would show. The experienced ones in the team could help calm the nerves of such players. The off the pitch influence of skipper Joseph Yobo at the African Cup of Nations 2013 played a big role in the successful campaign. England at the 2010 World Cup drafted David Beckham to the Three Lions back room staff due to his experience garnered from previous tournaments and to also serve as a link between the players and Fabio Capello. The fact Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard are in the twilight of their careers does not mean Roy Hodgson would discard them any time soon.
Also, the depth of the team bar the starting eleven is bleak. The second string players lack the class to combat with the world’s finest. Azubuike Egwuekwe is no doubt a decent defender but his lack of positioning was exposed by hot and cold Mario Balotelli and returning Rossi of Italy in a recent friendly. In the full back positions, we have backups in the likes of Solomon Kwambe and Francis Benjamin but how would you feel if one of them was called upon to replace an injured full back against Argentina and face the likes of Di Maria, Aguero and Messi. These players would send millions of Nigerian hearts racing. Even in the middle of the park, apart from Mikel and Onazi, do we really have quality players and upfront, it’s only Emenike who has always brought his goal scoring boots to camp. The Confederations Cup served as an eye opener into what befalls a team of few quality players. The absence of Emenike, Moses, Omeruo and Onazi were all felt as those who replaced either gambled to miss or could not just step up the plate. Keshi should start preparing for any eventuality.
All said and done, any player Keshi invites should be on merit as it won’t make any sense to have a Nazi Camp with little or no player offering any selection problems. I firmly believe that if the Eagles are going to make an impression next year, then the best legs have to be called up.