THE crash-out of the Super Eagles from the ongoing African Cup of Nations, AFCON 2021, in Cameroon has been generally accepted by Nigerians with equanimity, though the shock of unexpected early exit still rankles.
Due to the morass that the immediate past Head Coach of the Eagles, Gernot Rohr, left behind whereby our senior national football team lacked artistry and failed to inspire confidence among our football lovers, the expectations of Nigerians hit the ceiling from the first match in which the Eagles defeated Africa’s dominant national team, the Pharaohs of Egypt.
The Eagles went on to win the rest of their group ties against Sudan and Guinea-Bissau, topping Group D with nine maximum points, the highest among the groups.
Having emerged from the group and playing the best football Nigerians had witnessed of their darling team in the past five years of Rohr’s stewardship, Nigeria was already being expected to play the final with the hosts, Cameroon.
The early exit of Nigeria owed mainly to the Eagles’ poor technical abilities, something which Tunisia and other North African teams possess in abundance and which they use to great effect against sub-Saharan countries.
The second factor was the overconfidence with which the players and the fans alike approached the Tunisia tie. The fact that we have always done well against the country (we beat them for the bronze in the 2019 edition), and many of their players knocked out by COVID-19 made many think Tunisia would be a mere walk-through. In the future, we should never count our chickens before the eggs are hatched.
People have also talked about “political interference” through the calls to the players by Aso Villa. It has become part of our culture for presidents to call players before crucial matches to encourage them. That we lost after the president’s message to the team should not be made heavy weather of.
We call on Nigerians to shrug off this loss and quickly learn from it. Our team is still young and we have an abundance of talents to build on for the World Cup Qualifiers and the next AFCON. We must immediately return to the proverbial drawing board.
With Coach Austin Eguavoen returning to his substantive post of Technical Director, we call for his further training in that field to upgrade his technical know-how.
We would rather Eguavoen and another homegrown coach should team up to lead the Eagles in preparation for the Qatar World Cup.
However, if we must hire another foreign coach for the World Cup, he must be a quality manager with a proven track record at the Mundial level.
We must resume preparations now.