By Onochie Anibeze
In two separate discussionsÂ yesterday,Â two ex- internationals of repute said things that should interest the technical crew of Green Eagles headed by Shaibu Amodu.
Sylvanus Okpala and Stephen Keshi have been calling on Nigerians never to relent in their support to the national team, saying â€œthe Eagles can still qualify for the World Cup.â€
Okpala is in Nigeria and Keshi in Mali where he is the Chief coach of the Mali national team. On the same day the Eagles were struggling against Mozambique, Mali were also working hard toÂ beat Sudan to qualify for the Nations Cup in Angola.Â Reports said they hit the post up to four times before their deserved goal eventually came few minutes to full time.
Courtesy of a repeated broadcast of the Nigeria-Mozambique, Keshi watched the Eaglesâ€™ match on Supersport and in a telephone chat yesterday the former Eagles captain urged Nigerians never to give up until it is over. He said that the federation and all Nigerians should continue to rally round the team till the last match in Kenya. However, he observed that the Eagles allow so much space to their opponents and advised that something must be done about the way they mark.
â€œI think that the Mozambique team are not bad. The good thing is that we got the three points and Iâ€™m happy for the team. Let Nigerians not give up. The only thing is that we allow so much space to the opponents. I saw it against Tunisia and now against Mozambique. But you know these games are tight, so you celebrate if you earn the three points.
Iâ€™m happy that Mali have qualified for the Nations Cup. We would have been in contention for a World Cup place but for the injuries my players suffered.Â Weâ€™ll now think of the preparation we will have for the Nations Cup. The people are happy with me here. I know that Mali will do better if they are united. I tell them the truth and the people appreciate that.
I went around and in a short while I was able to raise two national teams. But my team suffered injuries. That cost us the World Cup ticket. Can you imagine me losing the services of top 12Â players when we played Ghana. I played Ghana with our team B and we lost that match because of the lack of experience of the young and new players I used.Â Malians were satisfied with what they saw in that match. We played the game, the young boys raised their game but lacked the experience to hold or evenÂ beat Ghana. I think that Nigeria should not give up.â€
Just one hour after that chat,Â we were on to Okpala who, interestingly, noted the same marking problems in Eagles.
â€œThe most important thing was that we got the three points, so people should congratulate the team. I have always said that we should not give up until the last day. The only thing I may say is that Tunisia have scored in all their away matches. They have won one against Kenya and drew the one in Abuja.
They scored in all these games and we have not scored. Again, marking abilities of teams will nowÂ determine who will goÂ to the World Cup. And my fear is that we are not doing well in this area. It is one area I will wish our team to improve on. We saw how Tunisia marked in Abuja and even what Mozambique did until in the last minutes when our team came on strongly. We must improve in our marking if we have to survive in Kenya.
If Mozambique hold Tunisia in Maputo or even beat them, are we sure we will beat Kenya? That is the question. It may be tough if we donâ€™t do something about the way we mark. Our opponents always find a lot of room in our games. This is the area I want my colleagues in the Eagles to do something about.â€