To think that they did not vote, one would have expected a win against South Africa. But it was not to be. As usual, the Super Eagles refused to fly and this has worryingly being a recurring theme for a while now. The question on worried lips is gradually shifting from ‘when will the eagles (let’s forget the super for now) fly’ to ‘will the eagles ever fly?’ Same measure of inexperience, same lack of passion and creativity, and one begins to wonder, does this team learn, ever?
Just after the African Cup of Nations win, everyone felt the push to greater achievements. The Confederations Cup provided just the perfect testing ground, and though the high level of naivety shown by the team shocked fans, there was still hope for a better outing at the World Cup. The Super Eagles equaled its 1994 feat of a 2nd round finish, however, the quite low level of performance left many unsure as to how successful the outing was. Let’s face it; Nigeria should have won against France. Post World Cup, the Super Eagles were expected to exert their dominance on African football but they did not; off-field drama ensured that. A failure to qualify for the Nations Cup was just the height of it. And this was followed by a loss to Uganda and a draw away to South Africa.
Keshi axed a lot of starters, selling the idea of rebuilding the team and everyone bought it. But it was quite surprising that after the Nations Cup triumph, when everyone one expected a consolidation, the Big Boss started a reconstruction. And that has been the theme for the national team for the past 2-3 years. What actually needed a reconstruction was the Big Boss’ ego. Obviously, there should be a development of the team but a certain degree of stability and consistency is needed to balance the equation and bring about a sustainable development 0f the team.
The immature and unpatriotic off-field events of contract renewal and N.F.F presidential election brought a big blow on the performances of the Super Eagles no doubt, but the stubbornness and rigid approach of Stephen Keshi did more harm than good. Keshi has shown that he lacks the tactical onus to make Nigeria a threat beyond the black shores and what is more alarming is that he is not willing to learn. We, on the other hand, have learned that Amokachi is not an option. A settled Keshi is still the best option.
The last 2 friendly matches come to mind. Against Uganda, Enyeama’s 100th cap celebration was obviously more important than the friendly. For why else would the celebrations and emotional outbursts be done during half-time when there was still a whole match to play for! Well, we dearly paid for the loss of concentration. A loss at home to a lowly placed team was just a perfect ending, there could have been no happier ‘happily ever after’. Of course a bounce back was expected against the proud Bafana Bafana but the only thing that bounced was the football! The South Africans will feel hard done with just a draw, and they should rightly feel so. They were all over the Super Eagles like an epidemic and only an historic win would have done. The fact that such result is relatively acceptable for the men in green and white is a pointer that the team is actually at its lowest ebb. At least, it was not a loss, we should be grateful right?
What Needs To Be Done
The first step has already been taken, i.e. Keshi should agree a deal with the N.F.F and take charge of the team.
Second, both the playing and coaching staff must learn from the previous matches. Credit to Amokachi for at least doing this, he deployed Musa on the left flank rather than the right flank he played in against Uganda and being right footed with an electric pace, it granted him the freedom to cut in to his right and shoot (he scored 2 goals against Argentina and a goal against South Africa while playing on the left).
Third, Ahmed Musa should be exploited. Obviously, he is not a good crosser of the ball but his pace is essential. Thus, a position on the right flank is not an option. A more suitable role must be found immediately, either on the left or through the middle. Running with the ball through the middle with that much pace will always be a threat to the opposition; however, a lone striker role is not advised as Musa has shown to be quite ‘prolific’ in front of goal.
Fourth, get a creative central midfielder. The team really needs a player who can distribute the ball well and find pockets of holes in the opposition’s defence with some accurate and timely passing.
Fifth, please resurrect Mikel somehow!
This team has got the personnel to play possession football against lesser teams and the pace to play on the counter against stronger teams. All that is needed is putting the square pegs in the square holes and with some patience, create a well-oiled devastating green and white machine!
And we at Touchlineui wish to express our pride at the determination and resilience shown by Nigerian voters during the just concluded national elections, we are surely on the road to accountability and good governance; we can only hope that our national team borrows a leaf or maybe more than one leaf!