22nd June, 2010
P.M.Sportsâ€™ Tunde Oyedele, writes from Durban on what is left for the Super Eaglesâ€™ Technical Adviser, Lars Lagerback should the Nigerian team crash out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup tonight.
Millions of soccer-loving Nigerians did not mince words on their reservations after the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, contracted Swede tactician, Lars Lagerback to lead the Super Eagles to the World Cup in South Africa.
Apart from the fears expressed by Nigerians over Lagerbackâ€™s tactical competence, football critics were upbeat that the quality of the players. But then, the Eagles who crawled to qualify Nigeria for the World Cup may not go beyond the first round.
Also, some concerned Nigerian media sounded it loud and clear that the Eagles were planning to fail in South Africa but such comments were jettisoned by the administrators. They branded the newspapers, television and radio stations that went to town alerting the nation on the consequences of the Eaglesâ€™ inactivity as â€˜enemies of progressâ€™.
â€˜Lazy Lagerbackâ€™, thundered a back page headline of P.M.Sports, one that explained in details how the Swede coach was then junketing across Europe, deceiving the country he was out to monitor Nigerian players abroad.
These realities are staring the administrators and their overrated team in the face as the Eagles file out this evening against South Korea in their last Group B match in Durban.
The Eagles, no doubt, are struggling here because the officials failed to help them commence early preparations like other teams did.
Teams like Brazil, Argentina, Denmark, Portugal, and neighbours, Ghana commenced preparations and started playing quality friendly matches shortly after the qualifying games were rounded off.
That was well over seven months to the kick off of the Mundial but the reverse was the case for Nigeria. The NFF, after the disengagement of Coach Shuaibu Amodu, spent close to four months before finding Lagerback.
There were many crisis before the Eagles finally assembled in Abujaâ€¦..and had less than a month to prepare at the London camp.
That is the price they are paying at the moment and the person feeling the heat more is Lagerback, who does not want to leave his plum job right now.
â€œI want to stay on and coach Nigeria for as long as the NFF and Nigerians want me. But I have to prove my competence by guiding the Eagles to an enviable position here in South Africa,â€ Lagerback told P.M.Sports before leading the team against Argentina last week. Lagerback, who claimed he was misquoted on the semi final target promise to Nigeria, knows what would happen if the Eagles lose tonight.
â€œWhat the hell is the Nigerian team doing at this World Cup?â€ asked some spectators, who watched how the Greek side tormented them during the last match.
They donâ€™t deserve to be here based on their performance so far. Their entry was all but engineered by luck and football is a game of high quality, technical and tactical abilities, both on the part of the players and officials.
The Eagles showed their limit when Tunisia held Nigeria to a deserved draw in a crucial qualifying match in Abuja and were on the verge of qualification before Amoduâ€™s squad made it to the South African finals in a miraculous manner.
The same miracle, which saw Mozambique clearing the road for Nigeria to qualify for 2010 World Cup at the expense of Tunisia, is what Nigerians are expecting tonight.
â€œArgentina will beat Greece, then Nigeria will defeat Korea and qualify,â€ thatâ€™s the permutation all over the place.
Worse still, CAF and FIFA believe they needed Nigeria in the tournament to add to the glamour of play in South Africa because the tournament is holding in Africa for the first time. The Eagles are here and one wonders what they are thinking right now
The NFF, which chose Lagerback will want to sacrifice him, so these days, or today may be his very last as coach of Nigeria. Except the god of soccer shows partiality again, and the pendulum of success swings Nigeriaâ€™s way.
Will there be another shock in the match in Durban? Thatâ€™s what Lagerback wants to hear. â€œI will like Nigeria to advance, that will make me a happy man because it will give us another chance to give our optimal best,â€ the coach, who failed to qualify his country for the mundial enthused. Will he and the Eagles have that chance? The Koreans and indeed Argentina already have answers to this question.