By Jacob Ajom
Just as the members of the national team, the Green Eagles, were concluding their airport formalities for their flight to Durban, South Africa to commence camping for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, veteran Coach, Godfery Esu, said the team had no chance of winning the tournament, beginning in Angola, January 10.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Sports Vanguard at the National Stadium on Wednesday, Esu, who has variously handled virtually every major club in the country including Enyimba of Aba, 3SC of Ibadan, NPA of Lagos among others said that his fears were based on the fact that Nigeria have what he termed as â€œaverage players.â€
Esu said that the Nigerian team lacked the sort of players that could inject fear into their opponents. â€œLook around, who is there?â€ he asked with a wave of the hand, pointing out that Nigerian players had not lived up to expectations.
â€œNo Nigerian player was nominated for the annual Glo-African Footballer of the Year Award and only one or two play in big clubs in Europe. Can you compare that with Ivory Coast, Ghana or Cameroun?â€
He predicted theat the Eagles may not get beyond the last eight, banking, however, on luck and history to do the magic for the Eagles in Angola.
â€œDefinitely, the name, Nigeria could work for us, but for how long can that carry us through?â€ he asked, sarcastically. He predicted that Nigeria would not get past the quarter-final in Angola.
He said the main problem with Amoduâ€™s ensemble was that there was no new player who people could look up to for the surprise element that is the hallmark of great teams. â€œAmodu is carrying those who qualified the country for both the Nations Cup and the World Cup. What manner of qualification did we get?â€ he asked, adding that the coach should have gambled with one or two younger players to add more vigour to the team.
â€œSince the departure of former captain, Austin â€˜Jay Jayâ€™ Okocha, we do not have a playmaker any more. Are we saying there is none in Nigeria today?â€ he asked.
He questioned the continuous retention of some players like the teamâ€™s skipper Nwankwo Kanu and others he considered as aged players at the expense of younger players.
â€œIt is not the best for our football. Kanu is good but for how many minutes does he play in a match? How often does he play for his club? These are the things you look out for when inviting a player for the national team,â€ Esu said with regret.