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Eagles win blackmail game, lose to France

Cameroon had issues with money. They shamefully lost three matches, conceding nine goals and scoring two.

Ghana took after them. They had issues with money. Their government was ashamed and disgraced Africa the more when they flew $3m cash to Brazil to meet the demands of their players. International media mocked Africa. Flying $3m cash to Brazil?

Money doesn’t play football. They had the money but shamefully lost to Portugal and crashed in the first round.

Nigeria failed to learn from their mistakes.

Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama saves a shot by Paul Pogba of France.
Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama saves a shot by Paul Pogba of France.

They lost to Argentina but courtesy of Bosnia’s victory over Iran, they qualified for the second round.

Rather than concentrate on the match, they started making issues over money. They wanted appearance fee paid them from fifa’s grant which had not been paid to the federation. They boycotted training for a day in their bid to collect money.

It was a blackmail which President Jonathan, just like his Ghanaian counterpart, fell to. He sent Sports minister to Brazil in a Presidential jet with some cash to make the players win. But money doesn’t win matches. Competitiveness, tactical discipline,fitness and concentration are all ingredients of victory.

Money could not provide these for the Eagles yesterday even as they have to be commended for getting to the second round. But heightening tension over appearance fee in spite of the bonuses that they have been collecting didn’t help their concentration.

It backfired when they put money before the country. Their fitness was doubtful when they lost gas in the closing minutes of the second half against France yesterday in Brasilia. They lacked competitiveness when Mikel Obi played all the matches in spite of his poor runs in this 2014 World Cup.

He was awful yesterday but Eagles lacked a good bench to react to substitution needs. It was glaring in their substitutions from day one of the ongoing World Cup. Each substitute was worse than the player he changed.

The way they played yesterday especially in the second half showed they fell short of the tactical discipline to get them to the quarterfinals.

They did their best, impressed some Nigerians but simply lacked what it takes to go far in the World Cup. Round of 16 is not bad. But Cameroun, Senegal and Ghana once got to the quarterfinals. Nigeria are yet to reach that level.

And this summed up their World Cup story yesterday when France beat them 2-0, with goals scored in the late minutes when they mounted pressure and Eagles eventually cracked after so many saves from Vincent Enyeama, a goal-keeper they have described as one of the best in this World Cup.

Unfortunately, it was Enyeama’s parry that gifted Paul Pogba the chance to head the ball into the net   in the 79th minute.

When it came, it was so simple. Valbuena whipped the ball toward the far post from the left.

And in the first minute of injury time, Nigeria conceded possession again needlessly, Omeruo passed the ball back and out for a corner down the right.

A quickly taken corner, and Benzema rushed along the byline with the ball. He fired it low into the six-yard box, where Griezmann got ahead of Yobo and Enyeama at the right-hand post, and flicked, which Yobo helped into the net. In retrospect, Ogenyi’s Onazi’s injury and subsequent substitution handed the advantage to France, who exploited the big void left by Onazi, who before his replacement did a yeoman’s role in the midfield.

His replacement, Gabriel Reuben did not just fit into the mix and with Mikel playing the worst football of his career, it allowed the French to exploit all the frailties in the Nigerian side.

What an anti-climatic way to end the World Cup.


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