Nigeria’s Super Eagles may be considered as one of the favourites to lift the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt going by the caliber of players within the disposal of team manager, Gernot Rohr.
Having commenced their AFCON campaign with a slim 1-0 victory over Burundi in the opening fixture before defeating Guinea with the same margin in the second group B fixture, to grab six points and become the first team to qualify for the round of 16, it seemed the team had their eyes gazed on the trophy.
However, the two matches the team played may be considered not too convincing for a team blessed with foreign based players plying their football in some of the best teams in Europe.
There is no doubt that victory is victory regardless of the margin of the score-line for as long as the team picks the maximum points. However, when most Nigerians thought the Super Eagles would smashed the Barea of Madagascar in their last group B fixture regardless of who coach Rohr parades, the team fell like a pack of cards to the fire powers of Madagascar, to eventually top the group.
Former Super Eagles coach, Clemens Westerhof has attributed the team defeat to Madagascar to complacency and wrong formation from team manager, Rohr.
“I’m surprised; it’s a shame that Super Eagles, with big and experienced players, disappointed us.”
“The tactics was wrong, the changes were many from the players that played against Burundi and Guinea,” Westerhof remarked.
In the same vein, former Super Eagles player Barnabas Imenger has criticised Rohr’s decision to rotate players and complacency from the players.
“It was wrong for our coach to change the team that beat Burundi and Guinea in the two earlier matches that we had played. We knew we were already through to the next round but playing with our best 11 would have allowed the players to understand themselves more before the second round game. What was his reasons for the obstruction to the squad that started against Guinea?
“I want to also say that the Eagles were complacent against Madagascar. They need to play better than they are doing if they want to go far in Egypt. We cannot accept the display like the one with Madagascar again.”
Madagascar showed class and determination just like the Super Eagles of 1994 to defeat a star-studded Nigerian side that couldn’t withstand the physicality, pace and trickery of a team ranked 108 in the current FIFA rankings.
Perhaps, the defeat may serve as a wakeup call for Rohr and some of the players who never saw this coming but then, there the coaching crew must have to take the hard decision by sitting big players such as Ahmed Musa, Odion Ighalo, Chidozie Awaziem, Samuel Kalu, to mention a few, if the team must qualify to the quarter final of the bi-annual tournament.
There is no doubt that when the chips are down that’s when the Super Eagles raise the standard of their game to the next level. Having received unpleasant criticisms from football loving Nigerians, it is believed that the team would approach their round of 16 match with all sense of seriousness and hunger.
To achieve this, Rohr must settle with enterprising players such as Samuel Chukwueze, who had a very descent game against Burundi in place of Ahmed Musa, Paul Onuachu or Henry Onyekuru should replace Ighalo in the attack, decide on who pairs Kenneth Omeruo between Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong in the defence and Shehu Abdullahi (if fit) should replace Awaziem in the right back.
Except the unimaginable happens, Mikel Obi may have played his last game for the Super Eagles going by his lackluster performance against Madagascar, while players like Alex Iwobi, Wilfred Ndidi and Oghenekaro Etebo must remain in the heart of the midfield.
Despite the fact that the Super Eagles have been pitched to face Cameroon in the round of 16, if Rohr keeps to a solid formation and players mentioned above, there is no doubt that the team would conquer the Indomitable Lions and zoom into the quarter final stage.