Positives from Super Eagles loss to Ethiopia

Once again, I choose to say the Super Eagles lost to Ethiopia because the ever critical and in most cases illiterate Nigerian public and media have acted like the team lost the game.

The national team played three group stage matches in the Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON, drew two and won one and only failed to top the group on goals difference yet Nigerians have slated the team as though they were disgraced out of the competition.

Before we look at what is wrong with the Nigerian team (because it is still a work in progress) are there really any positives from the game against Ethiopia?

Nigeria qualified despite the pessimism

The fact that Nigeria qualified from the group despite the negative vibes around the team is the biggest of them all.

Eight out of ten Nigerians on the streets didn’t just feel the team was not good enough; it seemed most actually wanted the Eagles to lose out in the first round.

Listening to fans on radio, reading them on twitter and pundits too it was like a consensus that the team would return home after the first round.

The champions, Zambia are out, same as Morocco, Angola, Congo Dr, Algeria and Tunisia yet these countries have had more praise than Nigeria from the Nigerian public.

Stephen Keshi is still the Big Boss

In my previous piece I wrote about Keshi being at the AFCON and World Cup in 1994 merely as compensation for his long and meritorious service to the national team that started in 1991. On current form then, Keshi did not deserve to be in those tournaments.

I also stated that after Joseph Yobo’s performance against Burkina Faso, he needed to be pushed back to just a motivational role in the team.

The fact that Yobo, the captain sat out the game against Zambia and made only a cameo appearance against Ethiopia shows that Keshi will do what he has to do to succeed.

Again, we saw the coach starting Sunday Mbah from Nigerian League side, Warri Wolves ahead of Nosa Igiebor also shows he has balls and yes, Mbah was outstanding in midfield.

Mikel Obi, Oboabona and Moses

Many people may disagree with this, but from what I have seen in three games, the national team is beginning to get leaders.

Nigerians can criticize John Mikel Obi as much as they like but he has shown himself a leader on the pitch for Nigeria.

Yes he can be sluggish at times but he certainly gives his all whenever he plays.

A case in point was the game against Ethiopia and the yellow card he received.

Nigeria had a free kick late in the game taken by Mikel Obi at the edge of the Ethiopian box. That kick almost resulted in a goal but caused the Ethiopians to counter attack.

It was Mikel Obi who ran back to defend, fouling the Ethiopian at the edge of the Nigerian box in the process and getting that yellow card.

Mikel missed a penalty against Zambia, but aside that he has been huge in the midfield for the Super Eagles.

Godfrey Oboabona has been immense in the center of defence and writing more about him would be akin to over flogging the issue. He is said to be a revelation of the Nigerian team to those who do not watch the Nigerian League. There are actually a lot of them like that in the league seeking a chance to strut their stuff on the big stage.

Finally Victor Moses showed that he can take matters into his own hands when with less than fifteen minutes left to play and seeming like the country wouldn’t score, Moses took on the defense himself, twice to win penalties for the Eagles.

For the second penalty, Moses could have easily squared the ball to Ahmed Musa who was in the six yard box screaming for the pass but Moses did it himself.

Play like these remind one of Sunday Oliseh, Okechukwu Uche and Daniel Amokachi.

Basically the team is still getting their acts together and the next game can only be better than the former.

First clean sheet at the AFCON

It was two games of scoring first and conceding late equalizers so a clean sheet in the final game was a welcome development, opposition notwithstanding.

Agreed, the goalkeeper was called to duty on more than one occasion, but isn’t that why he’s part of the team?

Why are the fans angry?

Despite all of this, the fans and media think the team is not doing well.
People have complained that the coach “cannot read the game”. Whatever that means.

They say he makes wrong substitutions. Obviously no two Nigerians would agree on the same substitution because every Nigerian who knows why a football bounces is a beer parlour (pub) coach.

I remember Clemens Westahof about twenty years ago harassed by the same Nigerian public and press.

Westahof simply said, “Nigeria has one hundred million coaches. I thank God I am the Technical Adviser.”

Some said the coach shouldn’t have gone defensive bringing in Yobo when the Ethiopians were there for the killing.

These are the same Nigerian pundits and fans who said twice that the coach should have gone defensive to hold on to his lead in the previous games against Zambia and Burkina Faso but that is Nigeria.

Avoiding the Ivory Coast was the last thing on the minds of the players at that time. Their preoccupation was to qualify.

It is the fans who fear the next opposition, the players do not. They see themselves as equals.

The coach was more interested in keeping a clean sheet than avoiding an overrated country whose so called golden generation have not won the AFCON in four previous attempts.

Tactics on display
A lot has been said about tactics with many Nigerians claiming that the coach of the Super Eagles is bereft of ideas.

Apparently, every Nigerian is a coach but Keshi remains the head coach of the Super Eagles until such a time he is relieved of his appointment.

Most Nigerians want the Eagles to play fancy but do we have the personnel to play fancy?

I remember Shaibu Amodu once replying to critics and saying Nigeria does not have a World Class team and he became the most hated man in the country.

Could it be that the coach is just playing to the strengths of the team? I remember the same people pelting the Super Eagles with rocks who are fans of Chelsea but were happy at the display of the team last year when they won the UEFA Champions’ League.

My point is that performance never wins games, neither does fluidity. What will win games is results and so far the Eagles have got the results, just like Amodu got results before then and Samson Siasia did not.

Disappointing play?

By what Nigerians have taken to be their standards, the Eagles have been disappointing and most times a bit one dimensional.

Ahmed Musa has not worked so far and the much wanted Ikechukwu Uche in the starting lineup got his chance against Ethiopia but was simply not there.

The team has also lacked fluidity and the goals are not coming in large numbers.

We have failed to dispatch Burkina Faso, Zambia and Ethiopia, probably scoring 12 goals and conceding none (As if that has ever happened)

Funny enough the same Nigerians who campaign on social media and radio programs that the Eagles and poor and don’t deserve to win anything are the same sorry fans of Chelsea and Arsenal who stupidly say “Cheslea for Life” and “Arsenal for Life” to clubs they really have no ties to.

Their so called European clubs post poor results week in week out but you never hear them say they won’t watch them anymore

There is just one Super Eagles team

There is only one Super Eagles team and though I won’t be deluded enough to say it has been a rosy performance by the team, I insist that performance never wins you anything but results and we have the results going for us.

I enjoy the games and take whatever results that come because Nigeria is clearly not the best team in Africa anymore but the fans fail to realize that and always put pressure on the Federation to sack coaches who do not win the World Cup.

Am I happy with the performance of the team so far? Certainly not because I believe they can do a little better but will I take the results that have come? Of course I will.

Finally I will not slate my national team without reason and in anther breath say Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool for life.

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  1. Very true - the part about shameless support of foreign clubs .
    Nice piece, China

  2. Exactly my words! Nigerians are too negative towards their fellow citizens. I mean what is the meaning of ARSENAL FOR LIFE? Why not SUPER EAGLES FOR LIFE?