FEATURE ARTICLE

Cyril C. NwokejiTuesday, July 2, 2013
cyril.nwokeji@wol.be
Belgium

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SUPER EAGLES OF NIGERIA: LESSONS FROM THE CONFEDERATION'S CUP TOURNAMENT

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he confederation's cup tournament is all over, and Nigerians have started giving their respective verdicts about our team's performance. Yours sincerely, will seize the opportunity, provided by this medium, to express my humble opinion.

Judging by the results, our performance was below average. However, we should not just yet crucify Stephen Keshi, since he takes responsibility for the team's performance. We should look at our performance, from the context of rebuilding of the Super Eagles. If one examines our performance from this perspective, one would come to the conclusion, that the Super Eagles couldn't have realistically gone to Brazil in 2013, to conquer the world. That said, our performance, was not totally disappointing. As a matter of fact, it gives us cause to be hopefull about the future. However, some pertinent lessons need to be learnt, from that Brazillian adventure :

  1. THE NFF : The NFF, should be more professional, in dealing with our soccer matters; there should be no more room for amateurism ; certainly, not at this time.How can the NFF,expect the players to be motivated and give their very best when they have not been paid their due allowances? The NFF, claims, to be in financial dire straits, yet sponsors a multitude of officials to an away match- Nigeria versus Namibia - in Windhoek. We all know why this is the case : travelling on away trips, comes with the concomittant allowances and estacodes, which make these trips very attractive to some officials; even those who have no business, being there. Why won't the players engage in 'Industrial action,' when the players who do the most difficult job, are not given their dues .

    The NFF, also, showed their rather amateurish side, by sacking Mr. Sylvanus Okpala, -the tactical brain - in the Stephen Keshi - led technical crew, for reasons of vendetta. Why should an organization, that is suppossed to be professional, sacrifice excellence on the alter of vindictiveness.

    The NFF, needs to be more involved in players' welfare, even when they are no more playing for Nigeria. Recently, players like Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Anichebe, complained of neglect,by the NFF,after they got injured,while representing Nigeria. For this apparent neglect, Victor Anichebe, shuned the call-up ,for the recently concluded Confederation's cup tournament ,held in Brazil.

  2. THE PLAYERS :

    1. THE GOALKEEPER(S)

      Vincent Enyeama, is no doubt, currently Africa's best. One however, notices that once in a while, this fine keeper makes costly mistakes. Making mistakes is human. Yours sincerely, thinks, a rotation of the Keepers, even, in competitive matches, can help increase the level of competition among the keepers, and thus bring out the best in them. A good example, are the Spaniards, who used their 3 keepers for the group's phase of the Confederation's cup competition.

    2. THE DEFENDERS

      Our back four is ok, and can only get better. However, Efe Ambrose, no doubt a fine player, should ensure lateral ball circulation in his overlapping runs ; he should try to pull the ball out laterally, from the wings during his overlapping runs down the flank. He functions as a pseudo-winger, whenever he overlaps, and thus, should among other things ensure lateral ball circulation. This is missing in his game, as a full-back. In other words, he must help give width to the attack, during his overlapping runs. He should also, not forget to fall back, immediately, the opponents are in possession of the ball. Presently, he sometimes forgets to do this, or rather does it, insufficiently, resulting,in the giving away of space to the opponents. This deficiency, cost us the second goal against Uruguay and the second and third goals against Spain, in the Confederation's cup tournament.

      Elderson Echiejele, has improved tremendously, in all aspects of his game, as a full- back.

      The central defenders - Kenneth Omeruo and Godfrey Oboabona - are no doubt gaining in experience. They are two young ,highly talented but relatively inexperienced defenders, who can only get better, with time. However, they should communicate more with themselves and also with the other defenders, during matches, and thus marshall the defence better. They should watch video tapes of past Super Eagles' matches and see how, Yobo and Danny Shittu, orally, marshalled the defence.

    3. THE MID-FIELDERS

      This was the best part of the team during the tournament. They helped the team in exhibiting :fine, positional, flowing soccer ; which is really, not a typical Nigeria characteristic. Kudos to the technical crew and to the midfielders,under leadership of John Obi Mikel. However, the form of Sunday Mba, troubles me. Since our Nations' cup victory, he is yet to rekindle that fine form that won him our hearts and minds. One hopes he finds a club side overseas, soonest; that will give him the chance to develop further in his career.

    4. THE ATTACK

      This department was the weakest. It was the sick child of the team. Ahmed Musa did a yeo-man's job,in attack, but he was not adequately supported. Methinks that players like : Anthony Ujah, Joseph Akpala, Babatunde Micheal and Muhammed Gambo, with all due respects, are not yet Super Eagles' materials.

  3. THE TECHNICAL CREW :

    Yours sincerely, thinks that the Stephen Keshi -led technical crew are doing a good job, in trying to raise a formidable Super Eagles. However, Keshi, should not go too far in his experimentations. We are at the critical stages of the World cup campaign, and cannot afford to fail. This is time for Keshi to 'concentrate,' his team and give us a formidable team. The time for wild experimentations should be over by now ! Nigerians are impatient for good results!

In conclusion, the problems of the Super Eagles, can be summarized in one sentence : lack of a good substitutes' bench. In the words of Chairman Christian Chukwu, a good team is one that not only has a good starting line-up, but one that also has a good substitutes' bench. Our lack of a decent substitutes' bench, is the reason, we couldn't find quality replacements, for our injured players. In this regard, and more especially, considering the difficult tasks ahead, one is calling on the technical crew, to consider recalling some of our more experienced players, for the tasks ahead. Players like : Chinedu Obasi Ogbuke, Obinna Nsofor, Osaze Odenwigie and Onyekachi Apam. Up and coming players like Joel Obi, should be recalled ,as well as Victor Anichebe; I am hereby using this medium, to appeal to Victor Anichebe, to please, sheath his sword, and make himself available to his father land once more. No doubt the NFF, would have learnt from their mistakes, vis - a -vis players welfare. The inclusion of these players will further bring about competition for shirts in the Super Eagles, and this will result in a much better team.

I have no doubt in mind that if the lessons learnt from the Confederation's cup tournament are adequately implimented, the Super Eagles, would come back to Brazil, in 2014, a vastly-improved side, ready to take the soccer world, by storm. I believe this with all my heart. That said, let's turn the Confederation's cup page and face the daunting future challenges. UP SUPER EAGLES, UP NIGERIA.

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