June 9, 2009

Why Eagles are leaving for Malta

By Onochie Anibeze
All the times the Super Eagles played a competitive match when the season was on break in Europe the story was never pleasant.

The holidaying players never gave their best.  Such a situation is staring Eagles in the face again.  On June 20, they play a crucial World Cup game against Tunisia, currently leading in their group. That match will determine a lot for  Nigeria and Tunisia, the two major contenders in their group. Nigeria will be away to Tunisia.

Amodu Shuaibu has his plans for the game and disclosed this to this reporter in his Nicon Luxury room hour before the encounter with Kenya.
The team has been allowed a four day break. They will regroup in Lagos on Friday for the trip to Malta the following day.  In Malta,  they will train in preparation for the June 20 cracker.
Tunisia have won their first two matches. After beating Kenya in Nairobi, they posted a 2-0 win Saturday to consolidate their lead.

“I think we can go there and win. Our target will be a victory. The worst case scenario will be a draw. The team spirit is high and my new approach is to ensure high competitive spirit in the players. Once we get their fighting spirit high, the job would have been 50 to 60 percent done. The next is tactical discipline. If the players are committed and develop the kind of fighting spirit that will make them a hard nut, then our qualification for the World Cup is assured. We can also go to the World Cup and do well. That’s what everybody expects from us. We know this. And we will get there. We have received a lot of commendations after the friendly in France. We are building from there. It’s to make sure everybody fights for a shirt in the national team. If you are not playing today for certain reasons, it doesn’t mean that the door of the national team has been shut on you. No. You can have another chance to play.

It only means that you have to fight to get back to the national team. We’ll spend more time monitoring our players. We want to know how they are doing and make them understand that by insisting on certain standards we all mean well for the team. I think that the players are responding and working hard to ensure qualification. That is good. But competition and fighting spirit will surely make us a better team.”

The constant repetition of the word “competition” indicated a possible change of approach which could put aside those who don’t report to camp early or stay away from friendlies only to flex muscles for proper games some of which they eventually play poorly.

“Watch out and see what will be happening from now,” team’s spokesman Idah Peterside said on the eve of the match against Kenya.  Watch out,” he said. It was clear that a firm position to ensure team discipline had been taken and when the team filed out the following day with the likes of Joseph Yobo, Taiye Taiwo, Chidi Odia and Mikel Obi were not even dressed up not to talk of being on the bench, Amodu’s emphasis on competition and discipline had clear meaning. The talk now is how to move on and not shirk even when under pressure.