Cyril C. NwokejiWednesday, December 2, 2015




ood news is: the qualification of the Super Eagles for the group's qualifying stages of the 2018 World cup qualification series, African zone. The Super Eagles, dispatched, the Sihlangu Semnikati of Swaziland, 2-0 goals aggregate.

Ever since that victory, a lot of commentaries have been posted on the various news media, some positive and encouraging about Nigeria's victory, others rather negative. Regardless of what the sceptics think about the victory; whether the victory was convincing or not, yours sincerely, prefers to look at the victory from a positive point of view, more especially in the light of the rebuilding process of the team by the Coach Sunday Oliseh-led technical crew. Taking into consideration, the time the rebuilding process started, and the then state of the team, meethinks, the Coach Sunday Oliseh -led technical crew have done quite well so far. They have certainly hit the ground running, as expected of them, more especially considering the very inpatient nature of Nigerians with regards their dearly beloved Super Eagles. The job of coaching the Super Eagles, is certainly not an easy one! And more especially at this point in time, when the country lacks top players at the senior level; a fact further buttressed by lack of nomination of the country's player(s), for the prestigious award of the 2015 "African footballer of the year."

The sceptics who cited the rather low score victory over the Swazis, as evidence of a low quality team, should once again be reminded of the reality: there are no small teams any more in Africa! African nations now spend lots of money on soccer; having realised the importance of soccer in: International politics, entertainment, and possible national development and the concomitant alleviation and possible elevation from poverty. Thus, the fact that the Swazis, were so lowly rated, and were convincingly beaten by some of their former opponents,in the past, does not mean that their soccer development, remains static. They like most African nations, have embraced "change," with the concomitant investment in their soccer development and consequently have improved, as evidenced by their courageous display against Nigeria. Rather than minimise the significance of the Super Eagles' victory, the sceptics should toon down their arrogance and show more respect to the hitherto soccer minnows of Africa. The Swazis, are not the only so called soccer minnows in Africa, who have improved significantly recently. Some of the other World cup qualifying results, buttress this point: The Tanzanians, were forced to a 2-2 draw, at home to Algeria; Algerians were disappointed at this result, as they expected an outright win, in Tanzania; Ghana, played an unexpected scoreless draw with the " unknown" Comoros Island, in the Comoros; Chad that were white washed 5-1, at home, by Egypt, only two months earlier, during the Nations' cup qualifying series, 'recoverd,' sufficiently, to inflicht an unexpected 1-0, defeat, to the Egyptians, in the first leg of the World cup qualification series, in N'djamena.

Coach Oliseh, certainly has a lot of work to do in giving us the Super Eagles of our dreams; but there are positive signs that give one cautious optimism, in his ability to deliver on the huge expectations of Nigerians. He apparently, did his home work properly, before taking up his job :

Firsty, he has revamped the Super Eagles defence, that was one of the achiless' hiels, in the former dispensation. As a consequence, we have seen the emergence of talented defenders like: Obaraokpo, Chima Akas and Shehu Abdullahi, who have complemented the efforts of the more established defenders, in giving us, so far, a fairly rock solid defence, that has only conceded two goals in eight matches; and have kept clean slates in seven of the eight matches played; a huge departure from the past! ;

Secondly, he has decided to 'revolutionise,' the mid-field. In the first leg match against the Swazis, we saw a rather: slow, not creative, and ineffective mid-field, that could not create chances for the Super Eagles' attackers, notwithstanding Nigeria's superior ball possession for the duration of the match. This has been a major Nigerian weakness, for quite a number of matches, predating the advent of the Coach Oliseh era as Super Eagles' coach. Coach Oliseh, after the match in Lobamba, Swaziland, decided to take the bull by the horns, by going for a radical change in the affairs of the mid-field. He took the risk of benching our mid-field super star and ' heavyweight,' player: John Mikel Obi, in favour of the untested, unknown, and unheralded, 'rookie,' player: Paul Onobi! The young man, helped to 'dynamise,' Nigeria's mid-field, in the second leg, in Port-harcourt, Nigeria; by bringing in: urgency, quickness, agility, creativity and above all efficiency, to the Super Eagles mid-field! A reality, which disorganised the Swazis, as they had strategised on the same mid-field organistaion, that was unproductive, in Swaziland. One hopes that Paul Onobi's five-star performance in that match,was not a "one -match," performance; we sincerely hope he reproduces that form for the Super Eagles from now onwards!

Coach Oliseh, apparently, wants a: creative, quick-thinking, quick-acting, proactive, and performance- oriented mid-field, that will create chances for the attackers. John Mikel Obi, will need to up his game for the Super Eagles, to be part of this new mid-field 'revolution;'

Thirdly, Coach Oliseh, has shown that he has the courage of his convictions, and would always go for the best legs, no matter whose ox is gored! ;

Fourthly, he has shown, so far, that he is not a " tactical lightweight." The fact that he studied the tape of the first match, together with the technical crew, and made the necessary re-adjustments, in the return leg, makes one cautiously believe he knows quite a thing or two about soccer strategy ;

Fifthly,he is apparently sensitive to public opinion, as evidenced by his decision, to carefully explain to Nigerians, why he dropped John Obi Mikel, in the return leg.

In conclusion, Nigerians, should please be patient with Coach Oliseh, in the rebuilding process of the Super Eagles. Nigerians, should offer constructive criticisms that would help him and avoid being mentally enslaved by the negative thinking of a possible 'doomsday,' scenario: an eventual missing out on the 2018, World cup competition, because Coach Oliseh, is in charge! We should for now, savour the sweetness of Nigeria's victory and qualification for the group's stages of the World cup qualification campaign; by the time the group's stages' competition, begin in October, 2016, yours sincerely, believes, the Super Eagles, all things being equal, would be ready!

For now, a big congratulations to the Coach Sunday Oliseh-led technical crew and more grease to their collective elbows!