Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari
With few days to the commencement of the greatest soccer showpiece on earth, the world cup tagged Russia 2018, soccer lovers in Nigeria and the world at large, will only understand one language which is “let the game begin”.
As a patriotic Nigerian, I shall assess the chances of the Super Eagles at the mundial.
I have to say that I belong to the school of thought that believes and says the truth no matter whose ox is gored. I have a premonition that Russia 2018, will be the worst outing for Super Eagles. Someone is already saying God forbid. Truth is that if you don’t plan to succeed, you plan to fail.
How can a country with over 180 million people, repose their trust in a team that played abysmally in their four friendly games against Serbia, Congo DR, England and Czech Republic hence drew one and lost three to teams that are not among the 5 top ranked teams in the world?
During the qualifiers, the Super Eagles under the tutelage of German tactician Gernot Rohr put up a scintillating performance which saw them qualify from a group many football analysts described as the group of death that comprised North African powerhouse Algeria, African Champions as at then Cameroon and another African powerhouse in the round leather game Zambia.
Having defied all odds to qualify for the tournament, Nigerians especially soccer lovers, expected the team that put up an outstanding performance enroute qualification, to exhibit perfected strategies ahead of the tournament. Many expected that a team that defeated South American powerhouse Argentina 4-2 in an International friendly last year, would have been 100 percent ready for the world cup, many itched to see a sterling performance that can be compared to that of the Super Eagles of 1994 when the country made her debut at the world cup held in The United States of America.
Regrettably, the team which parades majority of the stars that qualified the country for the tournament still wallows in non-direction and incoherence. At the goalmouth area, Nigerians are not happy at the chioce of Spanish and Deportivo La Cruna goalkeeper Francis Uzoho ahead of Enyimba of Aba based shotstopper Ikechukwu Ezenwa who put up a superlative performance during the qualifiers and conceded few goals.
Many argue that the reason Gernot Rohr prefers Francis Uzoho to Ikechukwu Ezenwa could be to justify the huge money spent on sending a goalkeeper trainer to drill the former. Whatever be the reason, frankly, Francis Uzoho looks uncomfortable and lacks co-ordination of the defence in contrast to Ikechukwu Ezenwa whose weight of experience at the domestic and continental levels, places him above Francis Uzoho.
Furthermore, while the duo of William Troost-Ekong of Bursaspor and Leon Balogun of Brighton in England have formed a wonderful partnership, our left full back, continues to be a source of worry. With the inclusion of Brian Idowu of Amkar Perm, it looked like our worry in that department has been solved, but with his abysmal performance against the Three Lions and Czech Republic, many have opted for Elderson Echiejile of Circle Brugge KSV who also has his weaknesses.
What could be said of our right full back? The truth is that Tyronne Ebuehi of Ado Dan Haag on loan to Benfica, looks more comfortable at the right full back position than Shehu Abdullahi of Bursaspor in Turkey who is slow in marking and will be vunurable when paired with the likes of Ivan Perisic, Angel Di Maria among other pacy wingers in the group.
Our midfield which parades the likes of captain Mikel Obi, Ogenyi Onazi, Joel Obi, Oghenekaro Etebo, John Ogu, Wilfred Ndidi among others should be our greatest asset looking at the quality we have in Mikel Obi and Wilfred Ndidi. That does not mean we do not have such quality in our attack line which has the likes of Odion Ighalo, Crotone striker Simon Nwankwo, Chelsea star Victor Moses among others.
Whatever be the case, there must be synergy in the team, as one department cannot be said to be more important than the other. As for the rumoured rift between Ogenyi Onazi and Mikel Obi over who should captain the team,
In all truth and fairness, the captainship of the Super Eagles over the years has been done according to age. This reflects the view of Facebook user Thomas Kachyno Sankara who in his words said “Super Eagles captainship has always been based on the principle of oldest player. Is Ogenyi Onazi not ashamed of himself? Why would he want the captainship of the team after his disgrace display against England”?
In the same vein, another Facebook user and football enthusiast, Okwundu Attire Okwundu submitted thus: We will be expecting much from the Super Eagles if we hope that they will lift the much desired world cup at the 2018 FIFA mundial in Russia . I let us know that their chances is very narrow making it out of the group. For a team to win or advance to the knockout stage , the team has to make it out of the group and I don’t see it happening easily with the likes of Argentina and Croatia in our group. Iceland should not be underated too and they are no pushovers” he concluded.
Gernot Rohr must be objective in his team selection if they must make any impact. This should be based on performance and not on quota system that has relegated us to the background. Ikechukwu Ezenwa with his weight of experience, should be picked ahead of Francis Uzoho who lacks composure at the goalmouth.
Most importantly, winning the coveted trophy is not a task that is done on a hunch, it is not done on the pages of newspapers, not for “underprepared” teams, neither is it accomplished by fighting for captainship nor bonuses. It is a task that a team guided by “can do spirit” will achieve. Indeed, it is a task a team that has the coherence, synergy and unity of purpose can achieve.
Super Eagles of Nigeria go go the Lord is with you!