ne cannot but congratulate the golden Eaglets, on their silver-winning performance, at the recently concluded AYC under - 17 championship, in Morocco. They no doubt did well by all standards. Reports indicate that this is perhaps the best group of under-17 players ever assembled by Nigeria, since the maiden group that won the maiden edition of the FIFA under-17 world championship in China, 1985. They had an excellent preparation, going into the tournament; and repaid back the investment, by walloping, almost all their opponents, on their way to the AYC under -17 tournament proper. At the tournament proper, they started, by thrashing our perrrenial soccer rivals, Ghana, 6-1. They also recorded a heart-warming victory, against Congo 7-0; and won 4-2 against Tunisia, in the semi-finals. However, for all their good preparations and good performances, the golden Eaglets met their waterloo, twice, against the Ivory Coast. The Ivorians ran away with a 1-0 victory, in their first meeting, during the group's phase, and some what confirmed their 'superiority, ' in a penalty shoot-out victory in the finals.
As earlier stated, a siver-winning performance, by all standards, is decent and enviable; what is however, some what troubling, is the way we lost to the Ivorians, particularly, in the first game.In that game the golden Eaglets, had difficulties, coping with a highly tactically organised Ivorian side. Though, the Eaglets, had better control of the game, but they couldn't breakdown a stuggy and highly tactically, organised Ivorian side. At the end of the day, they lost by an odd- goal scored by the Ivorians, in a counter - attack. In that match, the Ivorians masterd our game plan, and provided an anti-dote to it. Our coaches, for inexplicable reasons, couldn't alter their game plan in the face of the Ivorian resistance. When we qualified for finals, I prayed we met the Ivorians again, to know how well the technical crew had done their homework. The finals showed some improvements on the part of our boys, but, poor marksmanship, mainly, contributed to our not carrying the day. Since we have set a very high standard in the world under-17 championship- thanks in large part to our three previous world titles- coupled with the usually, very high expectations of Nigerians in soccer - thanks to our previous excellent performances in soccer- it is thus logical that the golden Eaglets, would be expected, to not only do well at the world under-17 championship, but would be expected to go all the way ! The pertinent question, at this juncture, is : Is this objective achievable ? In my candid opinion, yes. But how ? Here is how :
Firstly, I suggest the head coach, Manu Garba, who no doubt, has done an excellent job so far, be sent on a coaching course, before the commencement of the world under-17 championship in october. This would enable him aquire the latest ideas in soccer techniques. It is not only important to have a good game plan going into a match, but it is more important to be able to alter your game plan, if necessary, during the course of a match. In other words, a coach, should be able to have tactical variations to his original game plan, in function of the opponents. This is where a refresher course would be necessary for coach Garba.
Secondly, the coaching crew, should scout, more especially, for 'clinical finishers, ' for the team. This is gradually becoming a common problem with our national teams. The fact that goals win matches cannot be over -emphasized.
Thirdly, the team should go on a foreign playing tour, and preferably, play teams with similar playing styles as our opponents in the preliminary rounds. This would help expose our boys to high standard of soccer, before the beginning of the world championship, in october.
Fourthly, the NFF, contrary, to their earlier stated plans, should NOT reduce the coaching and backroom staff of the team.
Lastly, we should continue to support those chaps,and not run them down with unfair criticisms. We shouldn't forget that they are only 17 years or younger. I believe that, all things being equal, those boys would do well at the world championship, come october. UP WORLD GOLDEN EAGLETS, UP NIGERIA.