On Sunday, the Super Eagles of Nigeria crashed out of the ongoing African Cup of Nations, AFCON in Garoua, Cameroun after losing to north African side, Tunisia by 1-0.
The loss came as a rude shock to football lovers across the world especially Nigerians because nobody saw it coming that a team that struggled and qualified as one of the best losers could shock a team that had a good run with nine points in the group stage.
Before the match, many people have predicted that the Tunisians were the next North African to follow the defending champions, Algeria home but little did they know that the Tunisians had a game plan.
The game started well for both teams until Tunisia struck and grabbed the needed goal in the first half of the game. Many thought the Super Eagles will bounce back which was their trade mark but that didn’t work as the Tunisians stuck to their game plan.
They ensured that Moses Simon and Samuel Chukwueze did not play hence cutting supply to Taiwo Awoniyi and Kelechi Iheanacho. They frustrated the Eagles until the coach, Augustine Eguavoen thought it wise to bring in Everton forward, Alex Iwobi.
Iwobi did not help matter as he got a red card less than seven minutes of coming in. Despite the fact that the Eagles were a man down, they still played very well but were just unlucky to bounce back couple with the limited technical inputs from the bench.
The match was painful to many Nigerians because when much was expected from the team, they could only give little, no thanks to the technical deficiencies on the bench.
It is annoying to note that before the match, seven players including their head coach were affected by covid-19. In other words, they used their second team to beat the Super Eagles and to some extent, without a coach or with a spare ‘tyre’.
Investigation shows that the team did not prepare for the match the way they prepared for Egypt. They prepared very well for Egypt because of Mohammed Salah and because Tunisia does not have a particular player they could mark out, they just went to the match without any game plan in mind.
Secondly, the coaches don’t seem to have other options when it was discovered that the likes of Simon, Chukwueze and others have been caged by the Carthage Eagles especially when the red card was given.
One would have expected that the coach change formation and switch tactics. For instance, move Simon to the other wing while Chukwueze move to the other direction. Ejuke has always been a good player even though he struggled against Guinea Bissau but did well against Egypt. Don’t be surprise, he might have been the joker of the team who would have committed the Tunisia to foul him since Iwobi is not there. The coach has no business bringing in Ahmed Musa, he has paid his dues in the past but not to be introduced in such a tension match where you need somebody to play the role of two persons.
Understandably, Musa was brought in to bring his wealth of experience to bear but not when the team is depleted with a man down.
Sadiq Umar’s introduction was a good one but he is not clinical enough, otherwise, the Eagles would have equalized with the few scoring chances. Removing Iheanacho was actually not a good substitute, his removal exposed the midfield for the Tunisians to penetrate and at a point, Aribo was struggling.
In all, the team did well, it is just that they did not have a game plan like their Tunisian counterparts for that match. Also, distractions were too many for the team.
We were meant to understand that the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF President, Mr. Amaju Pinnick was always going to the dressing room of the players with his friends he wants to get money from.
The phone call of the President Muhammadu Buhari was not necessary afterall they have not gotten to the finish line (final), it was an unnecessary pressure on the team because they wanted to go out of their ways to please him hence distorting their game plan if there was one.
Frequent visitations of politicians to the camp of the Eagles were also not necessary. These matches can be watched on television and for those making promises for every goals, they should have channeled such money to the development and discovery of younger talents that will take over in future instead of wasting such money on wasteful venture.
If at all they want to spend that money, they should have waited for them to lift the trophy first, afterall, the players earn daily match allowances plus bonuses. Also, the players earn better money in their various clubs, so while the waste?
As we speak, the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL especially the clubs are looking for sponsorship. Also, the Nigeria National League, NNL and Nigeria League One, NLO have not started because of financial constraints. So, instead of politicians and businessmen wasting their monies on Super Eagles, they should channel them into the development of our leagues, the junior teams and the female national team.
The NFF should also channel the money raked in from sponsors into the other national teams because we don’t want to hear that they don’t have money, afterall, the billions of naira that was approved for them was not used because of the crashing of the Super Eagles.
The slogan of everybody is let’s go back to the drawing board but we don’t seem to learn anything from past mistakes. We have not forgotten in a hurry the way and manner we were disgraced by Madagascar and why we couldn’t get to the final.
Anyway, moving forward, one would have suggested that the short term plan should be that Eguavoen should continue but the technical bench should be reshuffled.
The likes of Joseph Yobo, Paul Aigbogun, Salisu Yusuf and Alloy Agu should give way for more competent hands to come in if we want to make the job easy for Eguavoen. Bringing in a new coach will amount to the team struggling because the new man will bring in a new mentality, policies, tactics, etc and some players might struggle to fit in.
In the long term plan, if foreign coach is the way to go, then we must go for a sound coach not just anybody that wants to boost his curriculum vitae with the Super Eagles.
Finally, in any tournament we attend, the NFF should always demand a technical report so that anybody taking over the team in future will be able to study the report and be guided by it. This will help the coach to continue from where the last coach stops otherwise he will start all over.
However, if the team is put together and all players are intact during the world cup qualifiers against Ghana, there won’t be any need to fear especially if the aforementioned suggestions are put into considerations.