By Onochie Anibeze, in Brazil
Stephen Keshi has one thing to tell Nigerians:“Always be patient. Don’t write off any team in a tournament until that tournament is over.”
Keshi was referring to the super performance of the team on Saturday night here.
He did not sound boastful but he was extremely excited that the boys lifted their game and earned a deserved victory against Bosnia-Herzegovina. The 1-0 victory has placed Nigeria’s one leg in the second round.
“It was tough against Iran but Nigerians didn’t know how difficult they were until they saw Argentina struggling with them. We knew what we did wrongly and worked on them before the match against Bosnia,” Keshi continued in an exclusive chat Saturday.
“I’m proud of the boys. They did well. But we all need to do more. We play Argentina tomorrow and we will give it our all. Argentina are world class. They are good and they have many good players. We will rely on our team work. Team work will see us through.”
The Super Eagles coach knows that individual game would not lead Nigeria anywhere going by the stars in most of the teams here. Many Nigerian players were not making the first team of their clubs before the World Cup. And to put them to shape, he needed time. But the camping period was less than two weeks and that worked against his plans.
“The time for preparation was short. We couldn’t do all the things we wanted to do. But we are gradually getting it right and, hopefully, we will get better in our team work and get positive results”.
The emphasis on team work probably led to the benching of Victor Moses whose individual play had become a minus to the team. Moses would likely learn from the performance against Bosnia and change his game. Keshi is not ruling any player out but strongly maintains that team tactics should prevail. Osaze Odewengie played well in the eyes of many against Iran. Keshi did not dispute that. But he did not quite position himself in a particular way that could see him latch on rebounds, especially the drop nodding from Shola Ameobi. Each time the ball dropped, there was nobody to follow up. And that angered Keshi. But Osaze quickly understood and made up against Bosnia and Keshi is very happy with him and the entire team. Osaze’s goal earned Nigeria the sweet victory against Bosnia.
“Everything is about team work. I think that we will play well against Argentina. We hope to qualify and move on. I plead with Nigerians to always be patient. The way they wrote us off after the match against Iran was disturbing. Let’s hope we get it right again on Wednesday.