Coach Samson Siasia knows all about the unpredictability of the game of football. Having arrived at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 as one of the favourites for the title, his team suddenly find themselves in the position of needing to win their final group game just to have a chance of reaching the last 16 as one of the best third placed teams.
“We always show our opponents respect and we never go out on the pitch believing the game is won before a ball has been kicked,” a firm_voiced Siasia said. “I have to say, though, that I never thought for a minute we would be in this situation. We have absolutely no margin for error and we simply have to react now. If we don’t, then we’ll be packing our bags and returning home before we know it.”
Group B matches to date, a 1-0 defeat to Venezuela and a 2-0 reverse to Spain. So just what has gone wrong for the much-fancied Africans?
“We’ve paid dearly for the defensive mistakes we have made,” explains the coach. “But our most serious shortcoming has been the lack of goals. We’ve been creating plenty of chances but when it comes to putting them away we just can’t seem to do it. I don’t know how many more openings we need to create in order to score.”
Understandably, Siasia is very frustrated by it all. “I feel that way because I know I have some very good forwards who are just having a bad tournament. You can try to guide them, give them advice and tell them to stay calm in front of goal, but they’re the ones who make the decisions on the pitch. And I’ve still got faith in them.”
Given the circumstances Tahiti appear to be the perfect opponents for his goal-shy strikers. The Oceania side have conceded 16 goals so far and are just one short of setting an unwanted new group phase record. Yet, as the build-up to today’s decisive meeting continues, Siasia is focusing on his own side rather than the opposition.