Cyril C. NwokejiMonday, September 16, 2013




ur dear Super Eagles have, since Saturday the 7th of september, taken their place as one of ten teams scheduled to engage in the play-offs to determine Africa's representatives at the World cup competition, come next year in Brazil. By qualifying for the play-offs the Super Eagles won their group, in the preliminary rounds, and deservedly so. Notwithstanding, the, sometimes, not-so-impressive performance, put up, no thanks to the rebuilding process, the Super Eagles were by far the best team in their preliminary group. With all due respects to our first round opponents, we were quite many classes ahead of them. Some of the matches were difficult, because our opponets redoubled their efforts, since they were playing the Super Eagles - the reigning African champions - and wanted to make a name for themselves, by holding the African champions. The match of Saturday the 7th of september was one of those matches. The Malawians really didn't have much to offer, except to sit back in their half of the field containing the Super Eagles with their Kilimanjaro-like wall of defence,and trying to catch us on the counter. In my estimation, the Super Eagles, had about eighty percent ball possession for all of ninety minutes. They knew even before the match they had no chance against the Super Eagles, hence their antiquitated mind games. We all saw how they fared on the field of play on match day, and only escaped a trouncing, no thanks to the carelessness of Emmanuel Emenike in front of goal.

That said, what are the salient points of that encounter? :

  1. The Super Eagles is now advanced-work-in-progress. The rebuilding process, in my opinion, is about eighty -five percent done - thanks in great measure to the hard work put in by Keshi and the technical crew in the last twenty - two months. Any doubting Thomas, should recollect the way the Super Eagles dispatched of their opponents : the Super Eagles exhibited very fine, scintillating, positional play oriented, attacking soccer = "champagne soccer" - which is not a typical Nigerian characteristic pattern of play, thanks in large measure to the influence of the Keshi-led technical crew - exhibited with alacrity, lustre, effervescence and shine and more especially with very rare confidence on the ball to spare ! The Super Eagles, gripped the Malawians in the neck, from the very first minute and didn't let go till the end of the game. The Malawians were dominated and uit-played for all of ninety minutes; and occassionally counter-attacked to show they were still present on the field of play. They didn't threathen the Super Eagles, and should thank their stars they left Calabar without a bagfull of goals.


    Vincent Enyeama, was quite brilliant. He didn't have much work to do; the few times he intercepted the passes of the Malawians, he did that brilliantly.


    The defenders were quite ok. Though one must confess they were not very much tested. The full-backs, were mainly in the opponents half of the field. The central defenders kept the occassional forays of the Malawian attackers at bay.


    This department was the lynch pin of the many Super Eagles' forays into the half of the Malawians. Under the able leadership of John Obi Mikel, and ably assisted by the burgeoning Ogenyi Onazi and with the creative touches of new offensive cum creative mid-field convert Nnamdi Oduamadi, the Super Eagles' mid-field overwhelmed the Malawian mid-field, literally converting their mid-fielders, to mere passengers on the field of play.

    Talking about Nnamdi Oduamadi's conversion by the Keshi-led technical crew to a creative cum offensive mid-fielder, one cannot but give kudos to the Keshi-led technical crew. They certainly have studied Nnamdi Oduamadi's characteristics as a player and determined that Nnamdi Oduamadi's best position ,would be in the offensive cum creative mid-field department, as oppossed to the initial position of winger, in which the "big boss," placed him at the advent of his Super Eagles' career. His very average performance on the wings, made me describe him as a player of the future, than one of the present, in my last write-up. The Nnamdi Oduamadi, we saw in that match, was a very promising offensive cum creative mid- fielder, albeit some technical polishings are still needed. His place in the Super Eagles is not in the wings, because he lacks the speed and ruggedness, required for wing play; but considering his enormous skills, more especially in tight spaced situations, on the field of play, meethinks, he is more destined for the offensive midfield department. He may well be the much sought after replacement for Jay Jay Okocha. Once again kudos to the Stephen Keshi- led technical crew for making this very important readjustment to Nnamdi Oduamadi's position in the Super Eagles, I believe it would have far-reaching positive consequences for the Super Eagles.


    The attackers functioned well, and were penetrating enough ; though Ahmed Musa and Victor Moses, didn't play to their fullest potentials. I believe on a better day, they would have done better. Emmanuel Emenike, was brilliant, particularly in the first half; and ended the first half, with a brilliant goal , off a sublieme pass from Ogenyi Onazi. In the words of the BBC commentator: " a top goal, from a top striker ." My concern with Emenike, is what I consider to be his apparent loss of concentration in the second half. He missed two sitters that could have given Nigeria, a much higher lead ; for a player of that class, that was highly unexpected. He should watch tapes of German teams, and see how German players concentrate fully for all of ninety minutes, regardless of the score line.


    • Nosa Igiebor, who replaced Victor Moses, performed averagely well.

    • Shola Ameobi, who replaced Emmanuel Emenike, was the most impressive of the substitutes. Regardless of what the sceptics think, I believe Shola Ameobi, not whithstanding his age, will eventually be a huge asset to the Super Eagles.

    • Uche Nwofor, who replaced Nnamdi Oduamadi, did ok; but came in rather too late in the game, to fully show the stuff he is made of.


    They were magnificent as usual ! The conversion of Nnamdi Oduamadi, to a creative midfielder, is to me the biggest tactical success of the Keshi era, in recent games. This was one of the reasons, the Super Eagles were able to break down the Malawian wall of defence; unlike in the game against the Kenyans, in Calabar, when a lack of creativity in mid-field, greatly contributed to our inability to break down the Kenyan wall of defence. The success of the Stephen Keshi -led technical crew, so far, has increased the limits of possibilities for our indigenous coaches. Yours sincerely, is beginning to think that a good indigenous coach, can be as good as a good foreign coach, in soccer.

And the match against the Burkinabes?

That was another splendid performance by the Super Eagles, against an experimental Burkinabe side. I was particularly happy for Ideye Brown for scoring two beautiful goals ; no doubt it would give him more confidence. A player like Ideye Brown, is needed in the Super Eagles. I was also happy for Shola Ameobi, for scoring his first goal for Nigeria, I believe Shola Ameobi, has more to offer Nigeria.

I would also seize this opprtunity, to encourage Sunday Mba, not to give up on the struggle, to market his skills overseas. The present disappointments, mean that his time hasn't come to go professional overseas; he should continue with the struggle, for his time will surely come. Nigerians as well as the interested foreign club sides, would not forget in a hurry, his two tournament - defining goals at the Nations' cup.

The good thing about the Burkinabe match, was that it gave the "big boss," and the technical crew, the opportunity to see the rest of the players at work. Thus, over the two matches played, the Stephen Keshi-led technical crew, saw all the invited twenty -three players, at work. This will no doubt enhance the team building. Yours sincerely is of the opinion that the two FIFA windows in October as well as one of the two FIFA windows in November, should be used for the Super Eagles. The "big boss," should not think much of the CHAN Eagles, till the world cup ticket is gotten. The world cup is the " real deal."