Bitrus Bewarang, Technical Director of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), has insisted that Nigeria’s Super Eagles have to reclaim the fear factor which saw them dominate their opponents in the past.
Bewarang was reacting to the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) second round encounter between Nigeria and defending champions Cameroon in Alexandria, Egypt on Saturday.
Speaking on the telephone from Alexandria, Bewarang told newsmen that it was the duty of the coach to imbibe the spirit of boldness in his players.
“In the group stage, we played three matches, scored two goals and conceded two. We lost the group leadership to debutants Madagascar.
“The problem with such abysmal record is that every team thinks you are beatable.
“To regain that fear factor which wins you the game most times, it is the duty of the coach to imbibe the spirit of boldness in his players.
“I encourage Gernot Rohr to do more on this to his players,” he said.
The Super Eagles took the lead in the game against the Indomitable Lions in the 19th minute when an Odion Ighalo shot was deflected home, following a wayward shot by Kenneth Omeruo.
However, the Cameroonians responded with a quick-fire double in the 41st and 44th minutes.
Bewarang, a former General Manager of Plateau United Football Club, said the Super Eagles played the first half without a sense of purpose.
“In the first 45 minutes, they played as if there was nothing at stake. They were marking space instead of closing down on the opponents.
“The approach gave them (Cameroon) the opportunity to attack us,” Bewarang said.
Nigeria was starring a second-round exit from AFCON 2019 in the eye when, in the second half, two well-taken goals by Ighalo in the 63rd minute and Alex Iwobi in the 66th minute salvaged a hard-fought victory.
Bewarang attributed Super Eagles’ better second half showing to Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr’s tactical substitutions.
“It was good that the coach was able to encourage his players to play more purposefully and be committed to fighting for every ball in the second half.
“The substitutions paid off because we were not utilising the wings as we should until Chukwueze came in,” he said.
Nigeria will now meet Egypt or South Africa in the quarterfinals, and Bewarang advised the coaching crew and players to expect the unexpected.
“The coach should build the confidence of his players towards playing the hosts, Egypt. But who knows, it could be South Africa. In football, anything can happen.
“Our players should shut their ears to vocal supporters, in the case that we meet Egypt. Mark you, with today’s victory, Egypt too would be wary of us,” Bewarang said.