FEATURE ARTICLE

Cyril C. NwokejiTuesday, June 10, 2014
cyril.nwokeji@wol.be
Belgium

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BEFORE BRAZIL 2014:
A CRITICAL REVIEW OF THE LATEST SUPER EAGLES FRIENDLY MATCHES

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The friendly matches under review are the matches versus: Scotland; Greece and the United States of America.

o say the least the Super Eagles have been unimpressive in the above mentioned friendly matches. After the match against Scotland, one attributed the relatively unimpressive performance to the use of experimental players. But after the matches against Greece and the United States, one is constraigned to think the so called selected players for Brazil 2014, have not given the Super Eagles supporters, what they really expect: good performance! One may think the reason for this relatively less- than- expected performance, may be because of the players not wanting to go all out for it yet, so as to avoid injuries before the start of Brazil 2014. But this possible excuse not withstanding, one still finds it worthwhile, to point out the lapses so far noticed, with a view to getting the best possible performance from the Super Eagles in Brazil 2014; I believe this is possible. The team as at the match against the USA, is not ready for Brazil 2014; they need to up their game, to do well in the world cup competition.

How has the team performed so far? :

1)               In the goalkeeping department, we have our best possibility yet; with two world class goalkeepers in: Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide; however, one must hasten to add that one is not comfortable with the choice of Chigozie Agbim as third choice. One sincerely believe s, like most Nigerians, that he is not the third best goalkeeper for Nigeria. Coach Keshi knows why he chose for keeper Agbim; one hopes this choice doesn't back fire on the team.

2)               The defence line while tight in the game against Greece, was wobbly in the game against the United States of America. This in my considerd opinion is attributable to the absences of: " Field Marshall " Kenneth " Nesta " Omeruo and Elderson Echiejile. Their absence no doubt destabilised the defence. In the match against the USA, the Super Eagles defence, lacked a leader; and consequently lacked stability. This is the reason the by- no- means world class US attackers, could score two goals! I believe with all my heart that the presence of: Omeruo and Echiejile, would have helped Nigeria escape defeat in that game.

Apparently the selection of Skipper Yobo, for the world cup team, wasn't an intelligent decision. Yobo, may be mentally determined to play for the Super Eagles at the world cup competition; but the critical question is: is he equal to the task? Is Skipper Joseph Yobo physically capable of withstanding the offensive impulses of top attackers at the world cup? Can a Yobo -led defence withstand top strikers at the world cup? ;strikers certainly better than the US attackers ?

Juwan Oshaniwan, at left back, was fairly ok; he is certainly not the first choice for that position. He needs to raise his game: particularly his ability to fall back after an overlapping run; and his ability to keep his concentration during an overlapping run, to give the right pass or pull-out, which would make his overlapping runs sensible and usefull to the team.

3)               The Super Eagles lack creative mid-fielders; the non selection of Joel Obi, due to injury didn't help matters in this respect. One cannot totally blame the technical crew for this deficiency, but partially, the circumstance that prevents Nigeria, from having these kind of specially gifted mid-field players. However, the available mid-fielders, must up their game to some how compensate for this deficiency. In this respect, one is urging Mikel Obi, to up his game and play the leader's role in mid-field that is expected of him.

With regards selection of mid-fielders for the world cup team, one can't understand why Stephen Keshi dropped: Nosa Igiebor; Sunday Mba and Nnamdi Oduamadi. I believe an in-form Nosa Igiebor; Sunday Mba and Nnamdi Oduamadi, would help the Super Eagles mid-field a great deal. In this same connection, the selection of four defensive mid-fielders for the team beats ones imagination! What happened to creativity in the Super Eagles 'mid-field? Any how that is Stephen Keshi's choice and must be respected.

The lack of creativity in the mid-field is the reason, the Super Eagles could not create considerable chances in the match against the USA, despite their considerable ball possession.

To help matters in this regards, the Chief coach should consider switching Victor Moses to a creative cum offensive mid-field role, since he is the most creative player in the present Super Eagles squad.

4)              The attackers of the Super Eagles, are yet to rise to the occassion save for Victor Moses. One sincerely hopes they are reserving their energy for the ' main dance.' One cannot however understand the selection of Michael Babatunde; he is more of a player for the future, as far as one is concerned. More disturbing is the fact that he was selected ahead of a player like: Ejike Uzoenyi; thanks goodness that the unfortunate injury of Elderson Echiejile, has resulted in Coach Keshi, some how making up for this apparent lapse in judgement, by re- inviting Ejike Uzoenyi.

Another area of worry in the Super Eagles offensive department, is the fact that with a week to the Super Eagles first match at the World cup, Coach Keshi, is yet to find an ideal striking partner for Emmanuel Emenike, in a possible 4-4-2 set up. There is a likelihood that Coach keshi, would opt for this formation at the World cup, considering the strength of the opposition and the suspect ability of the Super Eagles players to fall back when under attack in a 4-3-3 set up.This makes this scenario, all the more worrying. In this respect Coach keshi should have selected Brown Ideye, who has already formed a good striking partnership with Emenike, the efficiency of which we saw at the 2013 Nations' cup tournament. Apart from this fact, Brown Ideye also brings along with him: lots of technical bagage !; which would certainly be of use to the team, considering the present deficencies of the team, among others: lack of sufficient creative /technical depth.

One hopes that players like: Michael Uchebo and Uche Nwofor, would raise their game, and not give us the impression they put up a "one -off" fantastic performance against Scotland, in order to be selected for the World cup. One believes they have a lot to offer the Super Eagles at the World cup. One also hopes that Shola Ameobi, would rise up to occassion, to show us the stuff he is made of as a premiership player.

Considering the above mentioned critical observations, is the World cup over for the Super Eagles ?

My answer is no; certainly far from it! The World cup, to all intents and purposes must and should never be over for the Super Eagles, at this stage; more especially considering the extent the Super Eagles have come in the last two and half years. We cannot as African champions, go to a World cup tournament to make up the numbers - "TUFIAKWA !" Some re-adjustments need to be made to make this an unforgettable World cup competition for Nigerians - in the positive direction !

However, one must hasten to add that for the future, the technical crew, must exhibit some more tactical and technical flexibility and adaptability, and devoid of all kinds of sentiments, in their selection of players.One cannot understand why players like: Chigozie Agbim; Joseph Yobo; Azubuike Egwueke; Reuben Gabriel and Babatunde Michael can make the team to Brazil, while players like: John Ogu; Onyekachi Apam; Nosa Igiebor; Nnamdi Odumadi; Brown Ideye; Sunday Mbah; Chinedu Obasi Ogbuke and Ike Uche fail to make the list to Brazil! These non -selected players are individually highly talented players who could have brought the much needed creative depth to the team. If a player like Brown Ideye, doesn't fit the bill as a striker, no thanks to his relatively poor goal scoring ability, considering his huge technical bagage, he could be used as an offensive /creative mid-fielder. If a player like John Ogu, doesn't fit the pace of the Super Eagles mid-field, he could be converted to a left full back; considering his wealth of experience as a defensive mid-fielder, he would likely perform well in this position and could even be a much better deputy to Elderson Echiejile, or even first choice left back.

The erstwhile Super Eagles coach :Mr Clemens Westerhoff, was adept at converting players to different positions, with good results. He had a team of mainly highly talented offensive players, knowing fully well he couldn't use all of them, in the offensive department, and not wanting to discard some of them, considering their immense talent, chose to convert some of them to creative /defensive mid-fielders. Attackers like Samson Sia Sia; Mutiu Adepoju, were converted to mid-fielders, and were of immense use to the team.

Coach Keshi, needs to show tactical and technical flexibility and adaptability; if he did that, some of the good players, he dropped from the World cup squad could have been in the team and would have made the team stronger. Meethinks Coach Keshi with all due respects, didn't select the best twenty -three players of the moment for Nigeria !

Finally one is still of the conviction that the Super Eagles would still do well at the World cup competition, with the necessary: determination ;collectivity (tactical discipline); the typical Nigerian strong will and the strong support and good will of their teeming supporters; and thus give us the World cup of our dreams; " Iseeeeeeeeeeeeeh !!!!"

UP SUPER EAGLES, UP NIGERIA; BRAZIL 2014, HERE WE COME !

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