By Jacob Ajom
Super Eagles Head coach, Gernot Rohr is gradually coming to terms with the tough task of making Nigerians happy, all the time. Since he took charge of the team in August last year, the German tactician has been having a jolly good ride as his team had either won or drawn their matches. They achieved a 7 match unbeaten run. On the 8th occasion, the Super Eagles were made to look inferior and humbled in their own backyard by arch-rivals, the Bafana Bafana. They lost 2-0 in Uyo in a 2018 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
The 2-0 loss to South Africa was another faulty step by Nigeria after missing out from two consecutive AFCON tournaments. Against the Bafana Bafana, the Eagles were languid, immobile, slack and incoherent. On a day Nigerian football fans had expected the Eagles to massacre the Bafana Bafana inside the magnificent Godswill Akpabio Stadium, that is despite boasts by South African team coach, Stuart Baxter that he would silence the Uyo crowd, the Eagles failed to fly.
From the goalkeeping department to the attack, everything went wrong for Rohr. The defence line of Elderson Echiejile, Chidozie Awaziem, Troost Ekong and Shehu Abdullahi could not stop the dangerous Tokelo Rantie and Percy Tau from nailing the fleet-footed Daniel Akpeyi in goal for Nigeria.
The team also lacked a leader as the stand-in captain Ogenyi Onazi failed to provide the needed leadership on the pitch. He also failed to click as a creative midfielder. Wilfred Ndidi could not reignite his EPL form. neither could one absolve the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi and Oghenekaro Etebo from blame. It appeared as if the long camping in France and Uyo took its toll on the players as they all had an off day. Conversely, the Bafana Bafana players who had only four training sessions in South Africa and one in Uyo looked fresher and played with purpose. The defeat, the first under Rohr has sent fears into the spines of Nigerians who are already expressing doubt in the team’s ability to qualify for Cameroon 2019 AFCON.
As early as it appears, the question now is, will Nigeria be missing out of AFCON for the third consecutive time? How can the country avoid the ugly hat-trick?
Former head of the technical department of the Nigeria Football Association, Coach Kashimawo Laloko said the Super Eagles, as presently constituted cannot take the country to anywhere. He is not happy that the country still dependens 100 per cent on foreign-based players. “It does not help our football in any way,” he began. “If you choose players from Rangers, Enyimba, Plateau United, Rivers United and Akwa United you can build a team that can beat that South African team. There was nothing fantastic about them but what they had going for them was that they knew each other well hence they played as a team.”
Laloko insisted, “we must come back home. Our growth must start from home and not from abroad”. H e asked, “does it mean that once one plays abroad or a player is born abroad that automatically makes him a potential Super Eagles player?”
Laloko said, our football administrators shy away from the truth and that makes them avoid local coaches who will tell them the truth. “We have always had great coaches in this country, what did they do with them. They will use them and dump them.”
The Director of the Pepsi Football Academy blamed Coach Rohr for parading a disjointed team, particularly, in the defence where the Eagles failure was amplified most. “How can you have a defence without a fence?” he asked. “With that type of team, any serious coach can whip them with as many as six goals, if not more.”
He was, however, optimistic that with the reaction of the NFF Technical Committee, the Super Eagles will bounce back to reckoning. “I am happy with steps taken by the committee, particularly, the directive concerning the invitation of players and other steps to check the coach’s every step. He has been given a free hand in the past, which was good, but there should be some checks and balances. There must be quality control,”Laloko said.