With just less than 90 days to the start of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the Nigerian Super Eagles are yet a team, though blessed with an avalanche of talented players.
Going by the two friendly matches the team played against Saudi Arabia and Mozambique Super Eagles can best be described as a team with little tactical coherence and numerous personnel doubts.
This was just the same scenario when the country was preparing for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The Nigeria Football Federation hired a Lars Lagerback, one Swedish ‘bitter’ without any iota of healing tendency.
The choice of Jose Peseiro as gaffer for the country’s men senior football team leaves one wondering if those saddled with responsibility of managing Nigeria’s football really know what they are doing.
Good coaches all over the world are aware that tournaments are won by gangs, or team, and not just a collection of good players.
A team is built from a group of players, they may not always be the best but are grafted to become the best as a team. In every gang, there is always a gang star who dictates the pace of the game. This is lacking in our Super Eagles of today.
Gangs are psychological moulded to be ruthless with opponents from the defenders to the attackers. This is precisely what late Stephen Keshi did with 2013 Super Eagles that defeated the likes of Ivory Coast with Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Solomon Koule, and Eboe, among others, and overcame the Burkinababes to lift the coveted trophy in South Africa.
With players like Azubuike Egwuekwe, Reuben Gabriel, Fegor Ogude, Godfrey Oboabona, Sunday Mba and Nosa Igiebor, among others, Keshi built a ruthless and hard-fighting gang that defeated other teams in 2013.
Virtually every player in the current Super Eagles squad is plying his trade abroad and should be able to bring in that professional skill needed in his wing to make the team balance, but that is yet seen so far, and there is evidence that it will be seen later with Peseiro in charge
The Portugese made Nigerian football fans believe before September’s routine demolition of Sao Tome, that his Super Eagles squad selections was part of a preparatory continuum with the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in view, meant that every choice from then on would assume crucial importance.
But the development so far has proven that preposition faulty as the team was seen playing non-coherently.
Little wonder, Peseiro was delighted after ending winless run after
Super Eagles defeated a 10 man Mozambique team 3-2 on Tuesday, October 17, 2023.
The October friendlies against Saudi Arabia and Mozambique mirrored Peseiro team and unveiled many points of concern.
His tactical and technical approaches to the round game leaves much to be desired.
One would begin to wonder why the coach would persist in selecting four strikers in midfield, another forward in midfield and attacking full-backs to boot.
And his style of prime composition of the centre-back pairing a furtive player. It still strange to many what he intends to achieve by moving Ndidi out of his natural position. You do not form a gang by throwing players to unfamiliar positions, rather you get them to master their positions and form synergy with others.
The goalkeeping position for a long time now has been a concern to football lovers in Nigeria, yet the coach seems undecided or does not know who should man the post.
He has refused to give Adebayo Adeleye the chance to be adequately tested. It is unfortunate that while many other African countries are busy fine-tuning their teams, Nigeria is still experimenting with game approaches.
Mali thrashed Saudi Arabia 3-1, when Nigeria struggled to play a draw with the Asian team. Something is certainly wrong, and one thing is certain, one day, we will see belly of the catfish when it is dead.
It is my sincere wish that Nigeria does not experience another Lars Lagerback, where Super Eagles could not win a single match at the group stage.
This is the time build the winning team, Peseiro should an end to all these gambles. Remember, gangs win tournaments not super stars!