Penultimate week, the Super Eagles were denied the opportunity of featuring in the forthcoming FIFA World Cup in November in Qatar after they were knocked out through away goal rule.
The team was held to a goalless draw in Kumasi, only to play a 1-1 draw with the Black Stars of Ghana at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja.
Meanwhile, accusation and counter accusations have been the order of the day as all the accusing fingers have been placed at the doorsteps of the president and board members of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF.
Some also put the blame on the coach of the team, Austin Eguavoen, who they believe committed tactical blunders that cost the country the world cup ticket but only a few blamed the players for their lackluster performance.
There is no doubt that some things were responsible for the Eagles’ inability to qualify. Firstly, sacking of coaches with less than three weeks to the AFCON and seven months to the World Cup qualifier was a wrong move by the NFF.
The sack of Gernot Rohr might have been a good decision but it came at a wrong time. Some believe that Rohr ought to have been sacked immediately after the world cup in Russia, so as to pave way quickly for a new coach to settle down and build a team.
Secondly, the caliber of Nigerian coaching crew compare to that of Ghana is much to talk about. When the Black Stars of Ghana had a bad outing at the last African Cup of Nation, AFCON in Cameroun, they scouted for their best hands across the world. They went for Chris Hughton, an English Premier League, EPL coach. They also added Otto Addo, Assistant Coach with Borussia Dortmund; Tony Yeboah, Assistant Coach with West Ham and Mas-ud Didi Dramani, Assistant Coach with Norsjelland in Denmark.
Nigeria, on the other hand, drafted in Austin Eguavoen, Emmanuel Amunike, Paul Augbogun, Terry Eguoje, Salisu Yusuf and Joseph Yobo.
An opinion poll carried out by our correspondent revealed that apart from Emmanuel Amunike, others are not the caliber of coaches that should handle the senior national team. According to them, the likes of Eguavoen, Salisu and Aigbogun all failed in the past while Yobo is still learning the trade. No wonder, the Super Eagles were outclassed by the Ghanaians.
There is no doubt that the coaching crew got it wrong in the selection of players for the match. However, if the team had won, nobody would have raised an eye-brow but that does not mean it was right.
Even if new players are to be included to beef up the team, they should have been introduced in the course of the game, maybe as substitutes because some of them don’t understand the country’s style of play yet.
Although, Lookman was responsible for the equalizer, starting Dennis was not the best decision taken and leaving him on the field for that long time was a blunder because of his redundancy, hence the Ghanaians capitalized on that to get the needed goal that decided the fate. Some people thought Eguavoen should have started the same team that played the first leg in Kumasi with just one or two changes.
Meanwhile, information has it that the heat in Abuja affected some of the players even though the match was played at night hence some were asking to be substituted. However, it is believed in some quarters that the coach got it all wrong with the substitutions he made. In fact, that was what caused the Super Eagles the match. Even when some players were asking to be removed, the coach was not sensitive to their plight while the introduction of Shehu and Ahmed Musa in the midfield were the ones that nailed the coffin, when players like Kelechi Iheanacho and Semiu Ajayi were on the bench.
Meanwhile, some schools of thought also believe that there were saboteurs within and around the team hence they are asking that the security personnel should be involved in investigation. Some people think that there are plans to ensure that the team does not qualify so that it will be easy to ask for the heads of the NFF. Despite the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari was present at the stadium, only a few members of the board of the NFF were on ground because they are not happy with the current head.
However, many people were not happy with the lackluster performance of the Super Eagles especially after watching the first leg in Kumasi. They were so angry that they destroy the equipment in the stadium.
The one that baffled the fans the most was the delay tactics adopted by the Super Eagles players themselves. Ola Aina was seen delaying the ball whenever he wants to take a throw while others were either dribbling or taking the balls backward especially towards the 75th minutes of the match. Whenever a cross comes in, nobody will be around to utilize the opportunity while Ekong and Osihmen were the only players in a hurry to see if they can get a goal.
We all agreed that Eguavoen didn’t do well but the question is, was he given enough time to prepare? Before AFCON< he was left with three weeks and just two friendly matches played and before the world cup qualifiers, no friendly match was played even though one would have expected him to arrange for one or two with some teams in Abuja.
Another thing that worked against the Eagles was the absence of physical players in the team especially in the midfield. No player could match the physical strength of Arsenal’s Partey. One would have expected that Eguavoen who is a homed-based coach would have invited two or three home-based players from the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL. If Eguavoen, who is home-based couldn’t give these players opportunity to be in the team, then no one should blame Rohr or any foreign coach from inviting our NPFL players.
Afterall, not all the foreign-based players invited played the game. Some were on the bench throughout. The home-based players would have used the opportunity to understudy their foreign counterparts while in camp and some of them would have justified their inclusion and probably matched the physicality of the Ghanaians if given the chance(s) to play.
Meanwhile, enough of blame game, it is time to put the loss behind and start planning ahead especially now that the AFCON is around the corner with less than nine months to go in Cote d’Ivoire.