By Onochie Anibeze
Something dangerous is in the air. The seeming satisfaction expressed by Nigerians, from South Africa down to our cities back home, is my concern. We are making the players feel fine in defeat. This is dangerous in a tournament where you still have more matches to play to qualify for the next round.
Nigerians have been showering encomiums on the team for keeping the score line against Argentina low, I understand. Argentina with their array of stars were expected to humiliate Nigeria with goals. It didnâ€™t happen.
It would have still been so but for the heroics of Vincent Enyeama. But what I want Nigerians to understand is that a defeat is a defeat and we should be sad and hungry for the next games and not to celebrate a match we lost. Thereâ€™s no doubt the team improved. Our team, even during the Berti Vogts era looked so bad that the little improvement by Lagerback is exciting exceedingly.
I understand. In defeat Nigerians are happy. I understand.Â But the expression of satisfaction appears superfluous in comparison with their performance. I know that many may not agree with me but I write from a football point of view, please. Performances are assessed by goals scored and attempts made at goal..
In some cases, possession does not even come in. In a 90 minute game, we made about three attempts at goal – Martins, Taiwo and Kalu. You want to compare them with those of Argentina?Â This is what I want Nigerians to consider and see reason why we should work hard rather than making the players believe they were superb. You canâ€™t be superb in defeat.
If something is not done about this, I bet they will be struggling against Greece and Korea even as I know that we have the team to get to the next stage. But honestly, I saw thatÂ some work has been done to the team. And this was done only in two weeks.
If we had players with the quality that had characterised our teams before now we could have probably beaten Argentina. That match was played by our defenders and the attackers. The midfield was completely outdone. I looked for Dickson Etuhu and only noticed him when the ball was passing in-between his legs or when he was passing directly to an opponent .
Sani Kaita was his usual self. He marked well but gave out all balls to opponents. His shooting? He had never gotten any shot right even in training. Lukman Haruna was consumed. To complicate matters, Chidi Odia was too slow and his play affected Nsofor on the right side. Odia was a big problem.
Nsofor left Gabriel Heinze unmarked and we paid the price. But I doff my heart for Yobo. Daniel Shittu worked hard. I did not expect somebody who didnâ€™t play a single match for his club to fair the way he did. He likes going forward but as a central defender there must be understanding for coverage when he goes. And if his fitness is suspect and recovery rate slow, he should watch his runs up front. Taiye Taiwo was average. Yakubu Aiyegbeni was brilliant.
Obasi made some good runs and crosses. We lacked the connection and this had to do with positioning of players. Obafemi Martins looked hungry when he came on and Osaze was his usual self. He works hard but I really donâ€™t know why at a time you expect him to do something professional he decides otherwise.
If he gave that pass to Martins while running from the left, we could have probably scored because Martins was very free. Osaze does this every time but because he, generally, performs well people overlook it.
I think that the team may spring surprises if they keep their head and win the next two games. Letâ€™s encourage them to work harder and not overlook the fact that we are three points down. From reports, the organisation in our camp is superb. I want to commend the football federation on this.
Letâ€™s bash them when they blunder and commend them when they excel. So far, reports say that team organisation has never been this good and I want to give kudos to the federation but ask them to add some fire into the team and not join the catalogue of praise singers for a match that we lost.
They should play a psychological game with the players. They should put on wearisome countenance, look sad andÂ frownÂ so that the players would be the ones telling them â€œdonâ€™t worry, we will do everything to win.â€ Right now, it appears satisfactory and thatâ€™s what I find dangerous. The federation should fight this psychological war, get the team on winning track before savouring the accolades that are coming now from everywhere. Thereâ€™s still work to be done.