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U-17 World Cup:Painful fall of the Eaglets

At the end of the tournament, the Spanish coach embraced the Swiss national coach, Dany Ryser.

It was clear he had been working at very close quarters with the Swiss bench. The Swiss man of the match, Haris Seferovic, and my own man of the match, Ricardo Rodriquez, were drowning in tears of ecstasy inside the Abuja stadium.

Switzerland a little country, which has always avoided engagement in any major wars, has added another feather to her cap. The first nation to beat Nigeria at a World Cup final in our capital nation.

With that Sunday afternoon feat, this tiny Scandinavian country has joined the few who have arrived with others, and gone on, succeeding to beat the hosting World Cup nation before its befuddled citizens, at the most painful stage of the series, at the finals, with a very low count of a lone goal.

To cap it all, the win at Abuja marks the first time a Swiss football team of any gender, age, is winning a World Cup final match.

While the boys of the Green were not disgraced, it is a great deal to lose, when you are hosting a Tournament of this magnitude. Why did the Eaglets lose this great opportunity and what are the other dimensions of the loss?

Overconfidence. ‘’We have beaten Spain, Switzerland will be a cakewalk,’’ declared my friend, Lawrence Okolo, before the match. Secondly, the unexpected win of the senior team in Kenya. The Eaglets came into the field playing a match of formality, assured of the results.

Furthermore, they lost because our coaching crew could not read the mind of the Swiss bench. The Eaglets threw in all they had against the defensive wall of the visitors all through the first half. In that memorable half, the visitors were very lucky and seemed to recover after their Goalkeeper, Benjamin Siegrist, feigned injury in a collision with Abdul Ajagun.

After that episode, they seemed collected and were able to take all the Eaglets could deliver while at the same time, waiting for the striking and ever mobile home team to run out of gas, because the speed and the mobility was not to be sustained.

This is a team that had played the same way all these past three weeks!

This was the time the Eaglets needed a ‘’ball boy’’ to slow down the game, and restore their mental composure.

It was exactly the time to find a replacement for the out-of-form Ajagun and reorganise a most porous midfield. As mentioned, Ricardo Rodriquez, had marked out Egbedi and owned the whole of the outside right wing.

Now, his overlapping runs have also deflated our midfield and forward thrusts.

Very soon, coming into the second half, the Swiss bench ordered instant counter-offensives hoping that one surprise shot would decide the game. After all, the Nigerians have run themselves out of gas. And their game plan is an open door traffic.

You can predict a one-legged Okoro Stanley and know he can only give trouble from the left. The same is the striking style of Emmanuel Sani, who to me, should not have been substituted as he was the closest of the whole bunch to menace the rugged Swiss defence.

To evaluate a coach’s rating is simply to watch what his boys do with set pieces. Evidently, those Eaglets were not tutored on what to do with their free kicks and corner kicks. Those opportunities were wasted and the few that came for the Swiss squad were headache to the Nigerian eighteen.

One of those corner kicks, expertly taken from the left corner produced the lazy head clincher that denied Nigeria the greatest thunder that was to catapault her to the select platform of the world super power footballing nations.

In a week, the magical Obafemi Martins, in the Obama country of Kenya, restored the glowing image of the Nigerian soccer; and in many ways reconstructed the promise of the Nigerian nation, Abuja the sleeping city of paradoxes, failed again to grant Nigerians their prayers.

Add the FIFA Under-17 trophy to our bag and march to South Africa and take over Soweto land. Gentlemen, when you host such a tournament, you do many things in order to win it. This match should have been brought to Lagos.

In Lagos, Ricardo Roriquez and Haris Seferovic would not have seen the ball if the Ajegunle strike force had been given the right to take over the bleachers! Abuja crowd and the field are the people and the ground, Fela referred to as the ‘’Opposite People’’.

You hire them to attend to events, mostly political dinners etc…. but Ajegunle Nigerians are my people.

They know what to do and they come prepared to do the extra for us to win. As they say in Aba City …. this is Jiso, it is not munching bread!!
Abuja nearly denied us the World Cup Ticket. Now Abuja has caused us our deserved World Cup. Please Minister, and Oga Amos Adamu …. no more important matches in that sleepy, snail city of the rocks.



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