27th March, 2013
The thought of many soccer loving Nigerians before Nigeria played Kenya in the 2014 World Cup qualifier was that the Super Eagles would outshine the Harambee Stars in the game played on Saturday at the UJ Esuene Stadium, Calabar, Cross River, but the reverse was the case when the African champions were forced to a 1-1 draw.
To some Nigerians, it was a fair result, while some believed that the outcome of the match showed that the African champions still have a long way to go if they want to make it to next year’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Although, the draw result was the best Harambee Stars could take out of a Nigerian team in recent, Nigerians who followed the senior national team matches at the last Africa Cup of Nations held in South Africa were shocked when they saw how the Africa champions struggled to equalise against a lowly rated Kenyan team in Calabar.
Commenting on why Eagles failed to dim the Harambee Stars in the qualifier on Saturday, some stakeholders said the Eagles are yet to come out with the AFCON euphoria which resulted in their poor performance, while others believe that the players lack commitment and failure to train together for a while contributed to the lackluster showing against the East African country.
Former coach of 3SC of Ibadan, Fatai Amoo believes that the Eagles played well and there was nothing wrong with the formation, adding that the poor performance was due to the fact that Stephen Keshi’s team were still celebrating the AFCON success.
“The draw is a wake-up call and I believe that we can still go to Kenya and beat them. What we saw on Saturday did not mean that we should write off our team, but the draw showed that the Eagles must as a matter of fact win their remaining matches in the qualifying series,” he said.
In his own comment, former Union Bank Coach and former assistant coach of the Golden Eaglets, Henry Nwosu said the Eagles played well but they were unlucky not to have scored against Kenya. He said this is not the time one should fault the tactics of Keshi, Nigerians should rally round and support the team.
Also speaking, Christian Chukwu, a former Super Eagles Coach, said that some foreign-based footballers did not know the importance of wearing the national colours and as such, lacked commitment.
Chukwu said that if they had realised the importance of representing their country at the international assignments, they would be enthusiastic about scoring goals to lift the country’s name.
“Some professional footballers do not show commitment in their performances, whenever it comes to national assignments, you will see them playing with laxity which makes them unable to score goals.
“The passion to fly the country’s flag in a football tournament is no longer in the minds of our professionals as much as it is with their clubs in Europe.
“And this is affecting the national teams and their ability to perform, as expected, even with an array of stars,’’ he said.
Sunday Oliha, a former Nigerian international, said that foreign-based players received better offers and welfare packages in their European clubs than they get in Nigeria, when invited.
Oliha, also a member of 1994 Africa Cup of Nations winning team told News Agency of Nigeria, NAN that they were paid all their match entitlements in their clubs, even before a match was played.
“Clubs in Europe are very passionate about the welfare of their players; they ensure that all entitlements such as camp allowances and match bonuses are paid on time. This is not obtainable in Nigeria, the houses that were promised by the government after the 1994 victory in Tunisia have yet to be redeemed,’’ he said.
Oliha said that the unnecessary recognition accorded the professionals had gotten into their heads and they get carried away, forgetting the purpose of their call.
Segun Oguns, a former Sunshine Stars’ goalkeeper trainer, said that there was no sufficient time for both the home and foreign-based players to train well for competitions.
Oguns said that the fact that the professionals always honoured invitations was an indication that they wanted to contribute their quota to the victory of Nigeria in competitions.
“There is no sufficient time for them to train with the home-based as a team and play to score goals, they also want to make a mark in the national team,’’ he said.
Oguns suggested that preparations for international football tournaments should commence immediately after the draws are concluded and not when the competition was near.
Tarila Okorowanta, a former Super Eagles player, said that the welfare of footballers in the country should be handsome so that what obtained in other climes should occur in Nigeria.
The former Eagles’ assistant coach said the draw against the Harambee Stars should teach the players some great lessons
Former Nigeria assistant coach, Lawrence Akpokona told Goal.com that the draw against the Harambee Stars should be a wakeup call for the players that they are the target of every country in Africa.
Akpokona noted that as African Champions, no team on the continent will want to lose to Nigeria.
“The draw should be a kind of wake up call for the coaches and officials. It is a wakeup call because so many lessons should be learnt from the game.
“Nigeria are the defending champions of the Africa Cup of Nations. That means every country will play us with all seriousness.
“We cannot take any team for granted. There are no small teams anywhere in the world again.
“Yes we are the African Champions, but we must stop celebrating that feat. It is time to fully concentrate and win the matches that we should.
“Thank God we did not lose. The team should now fully focus on qualifying for the World Cup because it will be disastrous if as African Champions, we fail to play at the World Cup in Brazil next year.
“Most importantly, the players must play like the champions that they are. They should be able to impose themselves in every game at all times.
“I am sure we can beat this Kenyan side in Nairobi when we play the return leg in June, but all hands must be on deck,” Akpokona sounded off.
Former Nigeria international, Jonathan Akpoborie said that the draw has made it mandatory for the Nigerian team to win in the return leg in June
Akpoborie said that there is nothing wrong with the draw, but the three points secured by Malawi in the away game against Namibia makes the next game in Nairobi a must win for the Eagles.
“We need to win in Nairobi to restore confidence. A win in that match is needed to tell Nigerians the victory at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations is no fluke.
“The match is important because if we win, we remain on eight points and maintain the first position on the league table.
“Malawi defeated Namibia away from home and they also have five points like Nigeria. And when the Super Eagles will travel to Nairobi for the game against Kenya, Malawi will host Namibia at home.
“The moment we take care of business in the return leg, the result in the other game is not important. And I believe that it is possible to beat Kenya because we were clearly the better side in the game in Calabar.
“The players know that there is prestige in playing at the World Cup as African Champions. So they will attach all seriousness to the next game in the World Cup qualifiers.
“I am confident that they will get the three points in Nairobi. Nothing is impossible in the game of football.
It is the same team that triumphed in South Africa and they know what is at stake in the next game against Kenya,” Akpoborie said.