AFCON: Watching Eagles with blind eyes, By Kunle Awosiyan

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That Supersports will not broadcast African Cup of Nation, AFCON 2023 to be hosted by Ivory Coast, speaks volumes of how low football business has sunk in Africa.

It is a news I received with mixed feelings with the fact that it will save me the emotion of following the Super Eagles to the tournament via digital television.

I have not been impressed by the low publicity given to the tournament anyway. I’m not even moved by the quality of the present Nigeria team. I don’t even care about who will win the tournament.

For me, the present team looks more like a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Osimhen’s ingenuity alone cannot win AFCON for Nigeria.

With Supersports story, this AFCON looks like a good omen to me. My 2024 resolution of not giving room for what can cause me heartbreak. I will be watching the Super Eagles with blind eyes.

Interestingly, the team is not short of talents, especially with the likes of the current African player, Victor Osimhen of Napoli, Victor Boniface of Bayern Leverkusen, Ademola Lookman of Atalanta, Samuel Chukwueze of AC Milan in the attack but unfortunately the team has been lacking coordination.

It also lacks quality defence line with Francis Uzoho between the sticks and the shaky defenders at the back. Kenneth Omeruo, William Troost-Ekong are the most experienced in the defence but they have lost form.

The team lacks quality coaching in Jose Peseiro. This is a coach that has managed about 21 clubs and national teams in his over 22- year-old career.

On the average, Peseiro has never managed a team for two straight years since he began coaching in 1992 due to his lack of technical depth. He is one of the most fired coaches, yet he rakes in about $50,000 monthly as Nigeria’s national team coach.

With him, the Super Eagles may not qualify for the World Cup, having lost to Guinea Bissau at home in a group that also has South Africa. Nigeria is third on the log ahead of World Cup qualification.

AFCON: Watching Eagles with blind eyes, By Kunle Awosiyan
Super Eagles

Since he joined the Eagles in 2022, Nigeria has lost to Mexico 2-1; Ecuador 1-0 Nigeria; Nigeria 2-1 Sierra Leone; Sao Tome 0-10 Nigeria; Algeria 2-1 Nigeria; Portugal 4-0 Nigeria.

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In other words, he has won two and lost five games leading the Super Eagles. Under him, the Super Eagles had played without a pattern and coordination. I will be surprised to see different Eagles from what we have seen so far.

With Wilfred Ndidi out of the tournament due to injury, the Super Eagles midfield is expected to be porous unless his replacement, AlHassan Yusuf of Royal Antwerp Belgian first division club can favourably fill the gap.

For me, the present team looks more like a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Osimhen’s ingenuity alone cannot win AFCON for Nigeria.

He is not Lionel Messi or Diego Maradona whom despite their talent had got other talents and quality coach that helped them succeed.

In the days of Maradona, there was a Jorge Burruchaga, there were  Claudio Caniggia, Fernando Redondo who played team football with him to win matches.

In the days of Messi, there is Angel Di Maria,  Martinez and a quality coach, Lionel Scaloni who was not just a coach but a former defender with the Argentina.

Scaloni won Under 20 youth World Cup for Argentina and the South American Cup for the Albiceleste, including 2020 World Cup. That is the impact of a coach in a team.

Quality coaches matter in the life of any team as it was in 2018 World Cup qualifier when Nigeria excelled in a group that had Algeria and Cameroon, beating the north and the central African convincingly to book a place at the World Cup under Gernot Rohr.

Surprisingly, the Algerian FA hired a new coach who used the same set of players to beat Nigeria at the AFCON 2019.

The handwriting is written boldly that the NFF knows the right thing to do if really it wants good result from this AFCON but then it has refused to do so over flimsy excuses.

The Algeria team that was beaten 3-1 by Nigeria in the World Cup qualifier went ahead to win the AFCON just because a country changed the coaching crew.

There have been excuses by the NFF that it could not sack Peseiro because it has no money and that it has to reduce Peseiro’s salary from $70,000 to $50,000 for the Eagles to have a coach.

This shows that the NFF, like many Nigerians agree that Peseiro has nothing to offer but politics and corruption had kept him. The Portuguese has retained his job even when there are quality indigenous coaches that can do the job.

The handwriting is written boldly that the NFF knows the right thing to do if really it wants good result from this AFCON but then it has refused to do so over flimsy excuses.

As Super Eagles go to AFCON, some of us will be watching with blind eyes.

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