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Eagles have no business at the World Cup

By Ayo Akinfe

Now that the dust has settled after the barren draw in Rades, we can now sit back and soberly reflect. To the casual eye, a draw away to our toughest opponent in the group is not a bad result but can we please honestly ask ourselves what we really made out of the Super Eagles during the game.

After watching the team huff and puff during the last three World Cup qualifiers in which we have played some of the most drab football ever seen and only managed to average goal a game, how content are we with the current Super Eagles? Does anyone is Nigeria really believe that we have a championship-winning team on our hands?

I for one do not believe that there is one person among Nigeria’s 140m football fans who believes that we have a hope in hell of winning the 2010 African Cup of Nations at the moment. With a bit of luck, we may qualify for the World Cup but any talk of winning it is simply comical.
As a team we lack the coherence, fluency, togetherness and chemistry, which Nigerian fans have taken for granted in the past and I can confidently say that this is one of the most disjointed Super Eagles teams I have ever seen before. Simply put, we suck.

If we were playing well but not just getting the results, I for one would have been content to hang on in there until our luck changes but as we are playing at the moment, we are an eyesore and a terrible bore. Had that match in Rades continued for a week, we would not have scored.

As was the case against Mozambique and Kenya, our boys were chasing shadows for 90 minutes, were over-run by our opponents and showed no sign of being ready to put up a fight. We lost more than our fair share of 50:50 balls, were out-physicalled and still struggle to string six decent passes together.
For now, the only bright spot is that we are yet to concede any goals. We are defending well but that is where our good play stops. Nothing else about the team indicates that we are really interested in going to the World Cup.

Amodu Shaibu
Amodu Shaibu

Have Nigerian footballers suddenly lost the ability to pass the ball around? How come we do not know how to make use of the counter-attack any more?
Once upon a time, we could get the ball from box to box under a minute, devastating the opposition with the pace of our breaks but today, we are so pedestrian that our opponents have regrouped before we have even crossed the halfway line. Against Tunisia, we showed no enthusiasm whatsoever for scoring, with their goalkeeper having one of the easiest days at the office in his entire career.

Throughout the game, I kept asking myself at what stage Amodu Shaibu would ask our boys to up the tempo and take the game to the Tunisians. However, deep down, I had the feeling that this was never going to happen as he simply was not interested in winning the match and that negativity infected the players too.

Amodu went to Tunis in search of a point and got it. Now contrast that to the positive stances of Ghana and Ivory Coast who went to Sudan and Burkina Faso respectively in search of victories and came back with three points apiece.
Those are teams that really mean business and take their responsibilities towards South Africa 2010 seriously. For once, I cannot fault the government or our administrators in this, as the technical crew was provided with all the resources and support it needed. Our problem is that our coaching crew is simply not good enough.

Any amateur football pundit would have told Amodu Shaibu that in a match of this nature he needed to play a target-man upfront to hold the ball up. Why he did not start with either Michael Eneramo or Joseph Akpala is beyond me, when in these two we have two players tailor-made for that role.
It is no surprise that the ball did not stick when we pumped it upfront and our midfield was under constant pressure. A target-man would not only have given the Tunisian centrebacks something to think about but would have brought Ike Uche and Osaze Odemwingie into the game a lot more.

Out wide, why Amodu decided to drop Chidi Odiah and blunt our ability to forage forward on the right is another mystery only he has the answer to. Olubayo Adefemi simply does not have the attacking thrust or crossing ability of the modern fullback that would have provided us with the width on the right that Taiye Taiwo so aptly provided on the left.

While he explains that, Amodu should also tell us why Yusuf Ayila was dropped from the squad. By all accounts, he is our best anchorman and playing him would have given us more possession in midfield.

Sometimes I wonder if Amodu understands the role midfield plays in modern football. I cannot think of a coach who would have the likes of Yusuf Ayila, Chris Obodo, Lukman Haruna and Rabiu Ibrahim at his disposal and not take them with him to Rades.

I can go on and on all day but I get the impression that I will be wasting my time. Amodu Shaibu is simply out of his depth and no amount of lamentation will alter that fact. What you do not have, you cannot give. Football has long left Amodu Shaibu behind.

Anyone who thinks this current team will win anything while Amodu Shaibu is at the helm is living in Cloud Cuckoo Land. How long it takes that message to get through to the powers-that-be will be the key determinant of whether we present a team that will do us proud in South Africa or not.

In the past, we have changed coaches before World Cups but generally, we have left it too late for such changes to have their maximum effect. Our next game is in September. If we want to get serious, now is the time to make the change, so that at least start the process of building a decent squad.
What we cannot do is have it both ways. We cannot stick with the hapless Amodu Shaibu and then also expect to do well and win silverware at the same time. Anyone who watched Ghana, Ivory Coast or Algeria over the weekend will realise how far behind we have fallen.

Apart from maybe Ivory Coast, none of the other teams can match us in terms of talented personnel but as teams, they are light years ahead of us. Why our powers-that-be cannot figure out that coaching is the primary problem of the Eagles is beyond me.

With some luck, we may win our remaining three games and just about scrape through to South Africa. However, championship-winning teams do not scrape wins, they waltz through in style with panache, class and confidence, the way we did between 1994 and 1998.

Our current team is playing nowhere near this good. I hope everyone realises that all we need to do to drop out of the running for South Africa 2010 is draw one game. If we fail to win one of our remaining games, we will hand the ticket in our group to Tunisia. I believe Amodu Shaibu is perfectly capable of presenting the Tunisians with this gift.

The last time I cried myself hoarse in this manner was in 2005 when we were about to play Angola in Kano. I made it clear that the then coach Christian Chukwu did not have what it took to beat Palancas Negras and history proved that I was right.

This is not the time to gamble. If we want to secure our ticket to South Africa 2010, win the African Cup of Nations and then proceed to the World Cup with aim of winning it, now is the time to replace our technical crew. We need a proven coach with the know-how, tactics, creativity, initiative and capability to get the Eagles playing like a championship-winning team. Amodu certainly ain’t that.


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