23rd June, 2010
With the first round ouster of the Super Eagles from the World Cup, there is an urgent need for a revolution in Nigerian football.
When Argentina beat Nigeria 1-0 in the first match of Group B, many Nigerians were impressed by the promise shown by the Eagles in limiting the highly rated Argentines to a solitary goal. Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, deservedly, won the man-of-the-match award for pulling a string of top drawer saves.
But the promise offered by the first game began to evaporate with a dismal performance against Greece, headlined by the infamous Sani Kaita incident. The Eagles lost 1-2, unhinged by Kaitaâ€™s dismissal.
With the Argentines also defeating South Korea, Nigeriaâ€™s last opponents, the Eagles still had a chanceâ€“if they won their last match and the Greeks lost to Argentina. The South Americans obliged with a 2-0 stuffing of the Greeks. And Nigeria? The dream died with a 2-2 draw against South Korea yesterday.
As it was against Greece, Nigeria scored first but could not maintain the lead. Striker Yakubu Ayegbeni waltzed into the history books, producing a miss as shocking as a heart attackâ€“from four yardsâ€“when confronted with an open goal.
Other misses, though less ghastly, were produced by Obafemi Martins and Chinedu Obasi Ogbuke.
And it was Argentina and South Korea that qualified from the group. The players, sure, must bear a percentage of the blame. The bulk, however, must belong to the nationâ€™s football administrators.
Nigeriaâ€™s preparations were shabby. Lars Lagerback was appointed to manage the team in February, meaning that he had an extremely short time to work on the team. The first match under his watch was against Saudi Arabia, the first of the three tune-up matches before the World Cup. That should partly explain why the Eagles were brilliant only in staccato fashion.
It is this lack of long term preparation and â€œfire brigadeâ€ approach that has always affected Nigeriaâ€™s performance at the international stage in football. Now we need to put what has happened at this World Cup behind us and start planning for the 2012 African Cup of Nations.
The present team needs to be totally overhauled. We need to search for new talents who will stay together a long time to achieve cohesion. What we need is not a frequent change of coaches, but a change of attitude and approach to football administration. In this regard,Â Lagerback should be allowed to transform the national team instead of hiring a new coach.Â The coach should go to the numerous soccer academies across the country to pick talents that abound there.