*Martins, Ogbuke may be benched
By Tony Ubani, in South Africa
Lars Lagerback has won the hearts of the Eagles here who are now struggling to win his heart. They know that the best way to do that is to win a place in the team. The man has demonstrated his class and daily, the players grab new things in training.
The talk about Nigeria here is more on the country that has a great coach but average players. And when average players lack good coaching, they may play like novices as they will be lacking discipline in team work and organization from the defence to the attack.
Thatâ€™s precisely the problem with the Nigerian team and what Lagerback has been trying to fix. It is this knack for details that has seen the likes of Chinedu Ogbuke losing first team places to players Nigerians felt were less endowed.
Lagerback found Sani Kaita useful on the right side of the attack and has preferred him to Ogbuke because of Kaitaâ€™s marking ability. He has the ability to mark and also attack.
And so when the Eagles file out against Argentina today, Kaita and not Ogbuke, the star Nigerians knew before now, would be playing from the right side of the attack. Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Osaze Odewenge will be the other strikers that will star in a seeming 4_3_3 formation. At the central midfield will be Dickson Etuhu who did a pretty good job in that position for Fulham, his club last season. He will be flanked on the right by Lukman Haruna and on the left by Obinna Nsofor. The defence will have Chidi Odia and Taiye Taiwo as full backs and Joseph Yobo in the central defence. Afolabi or Shittu may pair him.
â€œThe man (Lagerback) has done a lot with the boys,â€ one of his staff said last night. He said more about the coach:
â€œHe has done a lot to explore the possibility of the team choking Argentina or holding them. He is covering all the spaces and making the players play tight football. He is so meticulous in his training that you canâ€™t complain if he does not select you. He takes details of runs, marking and even back passes.
He has told them it was a big problem with the Nigerian team and wants them to be going forward rather than passing the ball back. He watched the Nations Cup matches of our team and has been correcting a lot of things. He has succeeded in infusing tactical discipline to an extent. It would have been better if he started long before now.
Argentina will feel his handwork when they play us. He wants to pack the middle and cover spaces. The good thing is that he doesnâ€™t look at faces and he badly wants to get results with our team. I think that we can.â€