FEATURE ARTICLE

Cyril C. NwokejiSunday, March 30, 2014
cyril.nwokeji@wol.be
Belgium

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SUPER EAGLES OF NIGERIA:
A GOALLESS DRAW AGAINST MEXICO IS CERTAINLY NOT A BAD WAY TO START WORLD CUP PREPARATIONS

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ne has read with keen interest the various commentaries about the match of the Super Eagles against the Mexicans. While acknowledging the fact that those commentaries show the extent of involvement of Nigerians with the Super Eagles; they have also shown that some Nigerians, while concerned with the affairs of the Super Eagles, can sometimes go hay wire, in expressing their opinions; or rather how can one rationalise the expectations of some Nigerians that the Super Eagles should have played the perfect match against the Mexicans? Didn't those Nigerians realise that those boys came together after over three months of being in the ' international soccer wilderness? ' Didn't those Nigerians realise that some of those players, were playing for the Super Eagles for the first time? Didn't those Nigerians realise that some of the so -called more established players, were gradually getting settled in their various clubsides and these normally comes with periods of loss of regular playing times and concomittant ' rustiness,' on the part of the affected players? One can go on and on with the observed contradictions, in the thinking of some Nigerians, or rather the now famed" e- coaches."

While one is not against public expression of one's opinion, one nevertheless expects a more mature expression of those opinions, in a way that would make them constructive, positive and thus have the desired positive impact on the players, coaching staff and the entire team. While one realises that these commentaries are an expression of the wishes of Nigerians, for our Super Eagles to be world beaters, I would urge them to show restraint and maturity, and can assure them that by the time the Stephen Keshi -led technical crew puts them through five weeks of continuous intensive training preparations, in the period leading up to the world cup competition, the roughened edges would have been sufficiently sharpened, for the Super Eagles, to be ready to fly very ,very ,very, very, high in Brazil, like the true super Eagles they are suppossed to be ,and which we know them to be. So be rest assured folks !

Talking about the newly invited players, one that struck my fancy was and is still is: Leon Balogun. The highly patriotic, half cast, 'second' bundesliga - playing central defender cum right full -back sensation. Apart from the fact that Leon Balogun, shares the same skin colour with my three biological children, another thing that tickled my fancy for him, was his unusual patriotism, at wanting to play for Nigeria - a country, he doesn't really know! It was reported that when Coach Keshi asked him, if he would be available for selection for Nigeria, he barely restrained himself, from screaming" yes." What a great patriot - Leon Balogun !; may God continue to bless you and your career and may he grant you, your career's desires, Amen! The young man in the eight minutes he played for Nigeria, also showed flashes of his brilliant self; sufficiently enough, in my considerd opinion, to earn a recall. And above all, the philosophical calmness, with which he accepted his injury, earned him, a lot of my admirations too; Leon Balogun is a class act! Bravo and keep it up brother !

The other invited players, are also patriotic Nigerians, who should be appreciated; our great deal of thanks to them too!

Talking about the newly invited first time international players, I am happy ,those of them that had the opportunity to play, proved themselves sufficiently enough, in my considered opinion, to deserve another look- in.

The technical crew, should be commended with regards the way they tactically prosecuted that match. They reacted well tactically, to a very highly technical Mexican team, by increasing the 'usual ,' number of Super Eagles ' mid-fielders, to play in a 4-4-2 formation, instead of the conventional 4-3-3 ,for which the Super Eagles, under Coach Keshi ,are noted for .It shows tactical / technical intelligence and adaptability; coaching characteristics, which will certainly be needed at the World cup. Bravo to the Stephen Keshi-led technical crew !

And the NFF? One must confess that so far in the final preparatory phase for Brazil '14, the NFF, have done a good job. One hopes they continue in this pace, without any flounders. While acknowledging the friendly, against Scotland in May, I would want the NFF, to organise one extra friendly match for the Super Eagles, between the scheduled friendlies against Scotland and Greece ; I specifically mean a friendly match, right at the end of May .The more matches the Super Eagles play, the greater the chances of not only selecting the very best 23 players of the moment ,but also the greater the chances of blending the players, into a rock solid playing unit, that will shock the World in Brazil! The players no doubt are determined to do well for Nigeria, a great deal of thanks to Coach Keshi's, style of motivating the players, by bringing about competition among the players and letting them realise no player is indispensible.

One also reads with keen interest, the on-going debate about the invitation / non -invitation of certain highly talented, 'rebel ,' players, to the Super Eagles. My candid opinion in this regard is that Stephen Keshi, should have the last word in this regard. One thing I know in soccer team building, is that, talent alone is not sufficient; one needs not only talented players, but also players who can continuously exhibit tactical- and team discipline .In the preparations for France '98 world cup, Coach Aime Jacquet, the French national team coach, dropped top experienced players like: Eric Cantona who was incidentally the French national team skipper and David Ginola, for lack of - in his own eyes - tactical- and team discipline. It was a difficult decision to accept for the French ,considering, the statuses, of those players .But Aime Jacquet stuck to his guns, and prosecuted the World cup campaign with relatively lesser talented / experienced players, in the positions of Eric Cantona and David Ginola ; and the result is known to all and sundry. So folks, Stephen Keshi, should be allowed to choose his own team, at the end of the day, he and he alone would take responsibility ,for the team's performance .

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

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