Former Nigeria international Sylvanus Okpala dismissed the notion that the Black Stars of Ghana were technically superior to the Super Eagles during the second leg of the Qatar 2022. Technically, the Ghanaians were not better than us.
If you take another look at the match, you would find that there was a point they had the opportunity to have finished us up when our players were tired, but because of their technical limitations they couldn’t do it. They didn’t beat us anyway. It was only the away goal rule that played in their favour.
It was a poor game from both sides; it is only that the Black Stars were lucky
We made a mistake. I have always maintained that it is better to use those who have been playing than use those who are coming in for the first time.
It is after the qualification, then you will have time to introduce the new one because you have a longer period for camping.
Before the first leg of the playoff, they had only three days to train and three days also before the second leg in Abuja. That was not enough to change the team that played the first leg. It has to do with how you manage your team. The biggest mistake was the changes in the team that started against Ghana in Kumasi.
Acclimatization was a big problem. And this is something that anybody who has played abroad and is coming home to play for Nigeria knows. When you live in a cold weather and you come to a hot weather to play, it gives you a lot of discomfort.
Even those of us that were born here we had some problems in acclimatizing. It goes the same way for a team leaving hot weather to cold weather.
Travel out of this country to Europe for one month, then fly back, you will notice the difference as soon as you arrive at our airport. We supposed to have continued with our team, without minding what people were saying.
Those who played in Ghana had an advantage because after that game their lungs had opened up, they had gained more stamina and more strength, so they were just raring to go in the second leg.
On Eagles born abroad, I believe they are good players. It was the problem of poor management. I had Advised that Eguavoen should stick with the team that went to the Nations Cup. I specifically mentioned Taiwo Awoniyi and Ejuke. These are players I was impressed with at the AFCON.
What next for the Super Eagles?
The left back was good on the ball but very weak, no strength because of the weather. The people who handled them once played in overseas and were invited to come and play.
They should have known better when it comes to acclimatization. That was why Keshi decided to build a home-based team. We mixed them up. One could see during the qualifiers, we had more home based players in the team; sometimes it was 50-50 and sometimes 55-45, depending on the team and location we were playing. They were always there to cover up when the foreign based were tiring out.
But when we went to the Nations Cup proper, the foreign based professionals were more in number than were the home based because we had at least three weeks of intensive training before the tournament.
What is your assessment of Eagles born abroad to the failed World Cup campaign?
Even when Sunday Oliseh was there, he went to one Ibe I Liverpool like begging hime to come and play for Nigeria.
I granted an interview in which I said no. This is a national team. What Oliseh needed to do was to tell him you would like him to come and play for Nigeria and avail the player with his contact detail after reaching out to him.
He didn’t need to beg him, or any one for that matter. It is the player who has to determine he wants to play for Nigeria. Just like Victor Moses who volunteered he wanted to play for Nigeria. You could see he played very well, William Troost-Ekong is playing very well and Leon Balogun. Those who voluntarily want to play for Nigeria accept whatever situation they find themselves in.
Another problem we have in Nigeria is that there are people who had done this job perfectly before, and they are still living, those who worked with Keshi to achieve the Nations Cup success and qualified for the World Cup in Brazil. Keshi is no more but those who worked with him are alive. I am one, Sylvanus Okpala still living, Amokachi is alive, here in Nigeria.
How come, nobody has come to say, how you people did it without highly placed foreign-based players as the case is now. Even when I offered myself, they were rather going to Europe, Brazil, America and so forth in search of a solution that can be found here locally. They would rather give the job to inexperienced people than me.
Should Eguavoen’s failure be the final nail on local coaches?
No. It shouldn’t be. If it is the final nail on local coaches, then it also applies to foreign coaches. Before Eguavoen Rohr was here for six years and he failed. So, it is a final nail for foreign coaches too.
People are saying that if Rohr had remained we would have qualified for the World Cup, but I am saying it without equivocation that if Rohr had remained, it would have been worse. You know there is no sentiments in football.