By Paul Bassey
For a country that is on the ascendancy in football, one that is getting used to winning, Saturday was a disaster, to say the least.
Don’t get me wrong. I am also of the opinion that South Africa may remain a good hunting ground for us. I know a lot of teams who had lost their opening match and had gone ahead to lift the trophy, yet the way I am feeling now as Mali scores their second has necessitated this view point.
Agbim puts butterflies in my stomach. Whenever I see him between the sticks, I lose hope. During the decisive second leg match against Cote D’ivoire in Abidjan, as Agbim let in two goals and was frantically prancing around on the way to conceding a third and throwing us out of the competition, I put a call through to League supremo Emeka Nwani.
What Emeka told me then, was what he told me on Saturday. That Agbim is notoriously match rusty, Has never played in the league in two seasons going, yet here he is a regular in Super Eagles squad.
As early as the seventh minute, Agbim timed his cross wrongly and we escaped going behind. Four minutes later he prostrated as the Malians came calling and the ball flew into the net. There after, it was the same Agbim I know, one who is very poor at crosses. Agbim is the exact opposite of Enyeama. When defenders mess up, you expect the goalkeeper to cover up. Not Agbim. In our case, when the defenders are brushed aside, it is a goal. Clean sheet does not exist in the Agbim dictionary of goalkeeping terms.
The second goal came exactly as the first, from an angle that the goalkeeper is expected to cover. Not our Agbim. Before the attacker let fly, Agbim was already on the floor.
When substitutions were being made, I expected Agbim to go, not when Keshi had not taken solid goalkeepers along. He may be captain for all I care. He may have leadership qualities, but not solid goalkeeping ones. If he had, he did not display them on Saturday.
This is the goalkeeper that may be considered for the world cup as a substitute?
The Eagles did not raise their game. As earlier said, all is not lost. A déjà vue situation is on the cards. We expect the Eagles to bounce back from this very difficult situation by winning their next two matches and qualify for the quarter finals.
MIKEL AND THE “FRENCH CONNECTION”
This story on the front page of Complete Sports, Saturday led to the sub editor sorrowfully casting the above headline. An in depth analysis of how the 41 countries voted, reveals far more. For instance, only ONE (Nigeria) of the English speaking countries of Tanzania, Ethiopia, S. Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Somalia, Ghana, South Sudan, Liberia, Malawi and Sierra leone voted for Mikel.
In fact, of the above twelve, EIGHT of them voted for Toure as the best in Africa, TWO voted him as second best, while the remaining TWO had him on the third position. In conclusion, it is rather the ENGLISH BETRAYAL rather than the FRENCH CONNECTION that ruined Mikel!
Imagine Somalia not rating Mikel at all, while Egypt gave him 2 points and 10 to Toure. Ghana gave Mikel five points and gave Toure 10. South Africa gave Mikel 4 points and Toure 10. Even the Nigeria voting which was realistic did not favour Mikel in that Coach Keshi scored Mikel 10, Vincent Enyeama 9 and went ahead to give Toure 8. ( If he had known, he would not have scored Toure at all……don’t laugh)
Over all, Yaya Toure ran out such a convincing winner with over 100 points over Mikel after coming first on the cards of 28 of the 41 coaches who voted and was second with 9 points on the list of seven coaches.
Mikel only won in Nigeria, Sudan, Liberia and Zambia and as argued in the case of Nigeria even those countries made it tight for the Nigerian points wise by making Toure come second on their rating.
Overall, I think Mikel did well. The argument that it is an individual award, and the preference for goal scorers did not help his chances. However Nigerians can take consolation on a night when we nearly scooped everything………but the big one.
Win some, lose some.
See you next week.