By Onochie Anibeze, Abuja
The first signal of doom was when the sun hit the atmosphere more than it did throughout the days Eagles trained for the match.
The second was when, from the early minutes, Eagles showed they had nothing to offer.
The third was when the bench couldn’t react early to the awful play of Osaze Odewengie, Emmanuel Emenike and to some extent Chinedu Ogbuke. All these culminated in the confusion and negativity that the Eagles symbolised yesterday as they set the record of being the first team since the 1986 Nations Cup in Egypt that failed to qualify for the Africa’s biggest soccer fiesta.
And when, after about 30 minutes into the game, Mikel Obi also joined in the lack-lustre display, disaster became inevitable. A team can lose a match and still be patted on the back for their efforts.
The Eagles were far from this yesterday. Guinea showed that they understood the tricks of the game better and they deservedly forced the Nigeria to a 2-2 draw. They topped the group and won the ticket for next year’s Nations Cup.
Just two minutes into the game Guinea’s goalkeeper, Ysttra Naby fell to be attended to by their medical team. It became his trademark throughout the game. His teammates also joined him in the act. Tricks are part of the game.
They were falling every time and wasting time. They were a better side in terms of match execution. The game kicked off at 2 pm and it did not take long for Osaze, Obasi and Emenike to show their bad stuff. Their ball control was bad, their passes wrong and shooting awful. They were a complete pack of pity to themselves and anger to the fans. The stadium called for changes.
At that moment it must have been a very difficult moment for any coach. When, early in a game, about four players are fumbling, the matter of substitution could be difficult and confusing. Samson Siasia found himself in such a position yesterday.
But he ought to have done something earlier than he did. Two times, Guinean defenders were packed aside and passes laid to Osaze to finish up. He quarrelled with the ball and blew the chances. Emenike completely lacked understanding with him and was another pitiful sight.
Shots at goal were so weak that fans described them as back passes. And the first half ended with Eagles looking more comfortable with back passes. Guinea’s Zayatte Kamil, Balde Bobo, Diallo Ibrahim, Cisse Morlaye, Fendouna Pascal played compact game but they looked very beatable.
They remained in their half in a seemingly clumsy approach. But Eagles could not lift their game. And when Guinea attacked for the first time in the 58th minute, their Bangoura Ismael found the net behind Nigeria’s DeleAiyenugba whose composure was suspect. The stadium died. It was disaster waiting to happen.
And it was after this that Siasia made changes. Ahmed Musa came in for Chinedu Ogbuke and Ike Uche substituted Osaze. Life came into the Eagles. Uche dribbled around and laid for Obinna Nsofor to fire home. The stadium came alive.
Hope was restored. Ekhigo Ehiosun came in for Joel Obi. It didn’t look a good change based on the contributions of the Inter Milan player who played below par but marked more than others in the midfield.
Uche scored nine minutes to full time and fans started dancing. It was clear Guinea would push for a possible goal. They were not fantastic but the clumsy play of the Eagles offered them the piece of cake which they enjoyed in stoppage time.
Ibrahim Traore scored in a slow counter attack. Eagles players were walking in the field when the game had not ended. There was no fire in them, no fighting spirit and no good play. You don’t go to the Nations Cup that way. Guinea passed down the message to all Nigerians. It was a bitter pill which saw Nigerians reigning curses as they left the stadium.