S’Eagles’ Bumpy Ride To Gabon | Independent Newspapers Limited
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S’Eagles’ Bumpy Ride To Gabon

Posted: May 16, 2015 at 2:33 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Chibuike Chukwu / Lagos


Super Eagles Head Coach, Stephen Keshi, kick started the team’s preparation for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Chad on Thursday with the invitation of 26 home-based players. The players are expected to report at their Abuja camp on Tuesday May 19, 2015.

Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi

Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi

The qualifier is one match that will tell what fate awaits the team in its attempt to return to football reckoning in the continent having failed to qualify for the last edition of the tournament that held in Equatorial Guinea.

Super Eagles won the Nations Cup in 2013, but the team put every foot wrong in its bid to defend its crown in Equatorial Guinea earlier this year.

Several Nigerians expected Keshi to be sacked following the team’s failure to qualify for the Nations Cup, but against all odds, he was reappointed to lead the team.

While Chad, the team’s opponent on June 13, has been busy with its schedule and preparations towards the match, the Super Eagles just gave a glimpse of seriousness with the invitation of 26 home based late Thursday.

Such shoddy preparation has cost Eagles qualification for major tournaments on several occasions. Poor preparation cost Eagles 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Keshi and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) should have known better that a collection of Messi’s and Ronaldo’s without cohesion and team work will amount to a humiliating defeat. While it was painful for Nigeria not to defend the trophy it won in South Africa in 2013, it would be more painful for the team not to qualify for Gabon.

Only recently, the team’s top player during the last FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Ahmed Musa, urged his teammates not to underrate Chad on June 13 and bomb the Chadians with goals. One may ask, where will the goals come from?

While speaking to the media in Lagos, former Eagles midfielder, Henry Nwosu, raised the alarm over the team’s poor preparation even as the Nations Cup qualifiers beckon. Nwosu warned Eagles handlers of the dangers of not raising a cohesive team, suggesting that the players need to play more as a team in order to achieve good result.

“The Super Eagles’ coaches need to focus more on making players play like a team instead of this continuous testing of players. The World Cup and Nations Cup qualifiers will start soon and we don’t have a team yet. This is months after our failure to qualify for the 2015 Nations Cup.

“I think revamping the Eagles should go alongside putting things in the right perspective. The NFF needs to give Keshi the power to start working with the players he wants immediately. Time is running out,” he said.

To the team’s former coach, Adegboye Onigbinde, the problem with the Eagles boils down to the shoddy manner NFF employed in hiring the coach following Keshi’s poor performance after winning the Nations Cup. He raised concern on the delayed manner NFF followed in ratifying the appointment of Keshi.

“I was not happy with the situation in Nigerian football, especially as it concerned getting a coach for the Eagles. For NFF not to hire a coach after eight months of not qualifying for the Nations Cup means there was something wrong somewhere.

“That was total mockery of football in the country. All the qualifiers will soon begin… countries that are serious are already working with their players but in Nigeria we don’t even have a solid team. NFF should tell Nigerians the truth,” he asaid.

According to Bimbo Adeola, who anchors a sports programme on Star FM in Lagos, NFF erred in taking the Chad match to Kaduna. Adeola said the proximity of Chad to Kaduna means the Chadians will be at home in terms of weather and other sundry conditions that could work in their favour. He said in modern day football, every country takes advantage of every index to win matches.

That aside, NFF and Keshi should have been told that following the team’s non-qualification, there is no standing national team now, which would have prompted the coach and the football body to start early enough and source for players that can take the Eagles back to glory days. Or is Keshi telling Nigerians through his body language that there may be no new additions in the team?

But former Eagles captain and coach, Christian Chukwu, said Keshi is in order, even though he agrees that the preparation may not be the best expected of the country. Chukwu said based on what obtains internationally, the foreign based footballers cannot be in camp more than one week, meaning they have to be in camp for only one week to the match. He urged Nigerians to be patient with team.

Another ex-international, Mutiu Adepoju, said Nigerians must be patient with the coach. This is even as he admittedly said the Eagles should write off Chad at its own peril, warning that serious preparation was the only recipe towards the team’s expected good performance against Chad.

It is obvious that if nothing concrete is done, the Super Eagles may be heading for another Nations Cup ouster.

The Eagles’ inability to defend its crown in Equatorial Guinea has severally been blamed on a lot of factors, but the bottom line of Nigeria’s poor showing is poor preparation and fire-brigade approach, which has become the hallmark of the nation’s football administrators.

Football administrators believe that as the toga of giants of Africa is ascribed to Nigeria, the country can always get it right with the slightest of opportunities. Such assumption, as said earlier, has cost the nation qualification to major tournaments in the past.

Based on general conception, the Super Eagles has not done enough to warrant huge expectation from Nigerians, as the Chad match beckons. Nigerians are yet to come to terms with the team’s non-qualification to last Nations Cup, which culminated to the two all draw with South Africa in Uyo.

This is a call on the NFF and all football stakeholders in Nigeria to work assiduously to ensure the Super Eagles regains its lost glory, because as the popular maxim goes, he who fails to plan, plans to fail.