The 1-0 defeat of the Super Eagles last Sunday by the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia in round 16 of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon would not be forgotten in a hurry by soccer-loving Nigerians and fans of the team. The Super Eagles ouster came at a time they were being tipped to win the trophy on account of their sterling performance at the group stage.
The attendant brooding over the loss is understandable. Unarguably, Nigerians love the round leather game so much so that they expect the Super Eagles to excel always and win their games. That is probably why they find it very difficult to come to terms with any unexpected loss. Before the loss, the Super Eagles had gallantly won all their group games. It was unfortunate that the Nigerian side lost to a team ravaged by COVID-19. Although the loss is painful, the Super Eagles should not be deterred by the disappointing defeat. They should look beyond their exit from the tournament and focus on how to qualify for the World Cup taking place in Qatar later in the year by beating Ghana.
Instead of brooding over the great loss, this is the time to rejig the team by the coaching crew. There is no doubt that the team has talented young and energetic players. With adequate grooming, the team can go far. Whoever will be in charge of the team, now that AFCON is over for us, must ensure that Nigeria qualifiers for the World Cup in Qatar.
Many reasons had been adduced for the unceremonious exit of the Super Eagles from the AFCON 2021, including poor preparation for the tournament, lack of leadership, underrating of the Tunisian side and poor officiating. Beyond these reasons, it is not in contention that Tunisia defeated Nigeria owing to tactical superiority. In other words, the Tunisian team was technically stronger than the Nigerian side and the Carthage Eagles actually dictated the pace of the game.
While the Nigerian team is good, there is need for further grooming and nurturing in all departments of the game. The team needs more training sessions and tactical drillings. We need a more cohesive and technically sound team.
Despite the loss, we commend the coaching crew and the players for their performance in Cameroon. While we savour victory, it is also very important to learn how to remain gallant even in defeat. Therefore, soccer-loving Nigerians must always bear in mind that the team can either win or lose a game. It cannot be victory all the times. We should be proud of the team’s achievement in the tournament. The abuse and death threats to some members of the team by angry fans are unnecessary and condemnable. The preparation for the AFCON tournament was ad hoc and quite inadequate. The team could not train enough to be cohesive and technically upbeat. The sack of the erstwhile coach Gernot Rohr some weeks to the games was not the best.
Moving forward, the Super Eagles must prepare well enough before the World Cup qualifier with Ghana. Considering the old rivalry between the two sides, the Super Eagles must do everything humanly possible to win the qualifying games against Ghana. The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) must ensure that the team is adequately prepared for the task ahead.
For the future development of Nigerian football at all levels, the NFF must put the nation’s football house in order. We must do away with ad hoc preparation for continental and global football events and believing that our team shall perform wonders and miracles in the field. Also, the mindset that we shall excel in all competitions, including sports, even with little or no preparation must be jettisoned.