By Paul Bassey
I would have loved to start this column without commenting on the distraction that has become an African phenomenon.
The loss of three African countries in this World Cup is traceable to off the field indiscipline, especially as regards financial greed and recklessness.
The moment disputes over money set in, distraction reigns supreme and this leads to divided interest and concentration.
In the case of Cote D’Ivoire, the country’s President would have learnt, too late that motivation can be negative. You do not wake up and tell the players “…if you win today, I will triple your bonus….”. they go into the field thinking about the bonus rather than what they had to do.
The Aminu Maigari regime saw this coming. As a member of the last board, he was part of the South African experience that decided to involve the players in the sharing of funds accruing from World Cup participation.
Before Brazil, everything was done to ensure that issues of money or lack of it do not arise. The NFF even went ahead to involve the chief coach in the choice of the base camp and friendly matches.
That the NFF even had to sign an undertaking that their allowances will be paid when FIFA releases the money is not good testimony to an event that is also about patriotism, personal glory and advancement and not necessarily a market place for trading and haggling.
This latest situation where the players have gone as far as addressing the Senate President, and his entourage made up of governors, Senators, Ministers, Members of the House of Representatives as “you guys” is unfortunate.
Unknown to them, the Senate President, who is one of their strongest supporters in government, hitherto believed that the NFF was the culprit in their money row saga, now has an alternative view.
I stand to be corrected, whether there is any record of players in this country who were cheated out of their bonuses to warrant the siege mentality that we are now experiencing.
Imagine Ghanaian players forcing their President to charter a jet and fly $3 million dollars in CASH to Brazil! Very saddening. At the end of the day, they collected the money, jubilated all night and crashed out the next day, missing out on more money, history and glory, a clear case of penny wise, pound foolish.
I have heard so much, too much, and have decided to go to Brazil for an on the spot assessment, an eye witness situation….
Meanwhile I hold dear the declaration of Skipper Joseph Yobo that despite the one day protest which they did not train, they have put the issue behind them and were going all out to beat France today. I say Amen.
France is beatable. Every country is. Ask Spain, Italy and England….
Unlike Nigeria that had to fight tooth and nail in the last match to guarantee qualification, France could afford the luxury of resting six players in their last group match against Ecuador and still not lose.
Against Nigeria, France will return to full force and this includes the dreaded midfield trio made up of Paul Pogba, Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi. The success of this French team has been hinged on this midfield’s dynamism, a combination that is as complimentary as it is lethal going forward.
Between them they have 94 caps, and 15 goals and counting.
The French tactic which they are not likely to abandon today, sees Cabaye operating in front of a very solid defence line made up of Patrice Evra, Bacary Sagna, Mamadou Sakho (If he is fit to start) and Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, with Matuidi to his left and Pogba (right) roving in front of him.
Cabaye is the midfield general, good passer of the ball with a tremendous capacity at taking shots at goal.
Matuidi delights in winning balls from the midfield and forging ahead to initiate attack, where Karim Benzema, Real Sociedad attacker Antoine Griezman and petite Mathieu Valbuena are waiting to be fed.
Pogba on his part contributes an athletic presence especially with aerial balls and with a knack for scoring goals.
This midfield stabilizes the team, works for others and have the capacity to switch at will.
Coach Didier Deschamps believes it is this midfield that will win the match for him “… The midfield is the soul of any football team. Ours has been the heart of the squad, giving us life. If they click as they have done so far, I see us emerging victorious…” He says.
Unfortunately, this plays out against a Nigerian team that was considered strong in midfield, pre Brazil, but that has so far disappointed. Today, the Mikel Obi led midfield must rise to the occasion and short circuit the French, not allow them take control of the midfield as the Argentines did.
Today, history beckons and the Super Eagles must grab opportunity with both legs.
Good luck Nigeria.
See you next week.