Positives from the Super Eagles’ Burkina Faso loss

I didn’t make a mistake saying the Super Eagles lost their first AFCON 2013 game against Burkina Faso on Monday.

Have you read the newspapers? Visited the blogs? Been on social media? Nigerians worldwide have been acting like Nigeria lost the game.

At the local bars (or beer parlours as they are called in Nigeria), the football experts shouted themselves hoarse on Monday night; the pundits on radio and TV did same and of course twitter was a mad house.

Some even went as far as calling for the sack of Stephen Keshi (a bit premature if you ask me) but it goes to show the current playing and coaching personnel of the team the weight of expectations from Nigerians all over the world.

Was it really that bad a result? All four teams in the group have one point and one goal; another favourite to win, Ghana also drew their game, didn’t they?

And for those of us that watch the English League, you remember a similar scenario happened on Sunday between Manchester United and Tottenham and I didn’t see Sir Alex get the kind of flak thrown at Stephen Keshi.

Were there really any positives from the game?

I saw a couple. First I liked the announcement to the world of Godfrey Oboabona who plays for Nigerian Premier League side, Sunshine Stars.

Oboabona played one of his best games for Nigeria and covered up some of the frailties of his captain, Joseph Yobo who had one of his worst games ever since he made his Super Eagles’ debut.

Oboabona clearly did a mop up job for Yobo, cleaning up his mess. He did well stopping Burkinabe attackers who came his way, getting the ball out of danger and making the frantic clearance when it was necessary.

It was just too bad that when the Burkinabe equalizer came, he happened to be part of the mess in the Nigerian defence.

Second, I liked the Eagles build up from defence to attack. The defenders hardly booted the ball out of the area, except of course when they needed to make a frantic clearance which happens in football.

Our middle three, Mikel Obi, Fengor Ogude and Nosa Igiebor were exceptional in this. The only problem was that they easily looked disinterested at times in the game.

Third, I saw John Mikel Obi play some pretty decent football for the Eagles on the night. His occasional long ball was also a source of trouble for the Burkinabes just that our strikers hardly ever profited from it.
Nigeria’s goal was also from one of Mikel Obi’s long balls that found Brown Ideye who flicked on to Emenike for the goal.
Problem with this was simply that the team eventually became too predictable as it always seemed that whenever the defence got the ball to midfield there would always be a long ball from Mikel either to Ahmed Musa on the flanks or straight up the middle to Ideye or Emenike.
Mikel was also solid holding up the ball and it was always very difficult dispossessing him of it.

Emenike and Ideye also worked well together as their fluidity, mobility and interchange seemed to work well for the team. Don’t know how this would have worked with Ikechukwu Uche who Nigerians love more but who is wont to hold onto the ball longer than necessary.
Emenike’s goal was a real goal poacher’s effort, sticking his leg out in between defenders to score. He may be beginning to impress some skeptics like me.
It is my strong feeling that Stephen Keshi can build on the strengths of this team because they have a lot going for them.
They are young, energetic, fast and eager to carve out niches for themselves and they really remind me of the famous USA 94 team when they started in 1990.
But it was not all a sweet story for the Eagles as we also noticed a couple of things that messed up whatever good play they had.

What’s up with Joseph Yobo?

Nigeria’s captain, Joseph Yobo had a really poor game. Unforced on at least two occasions he gave the ball to the opponent, incidents the Eagles would have been punished from if the Burkinabe side were better.

Yobo was slow and his tackles were late. He tried to command his defence but it just wasn’t there. The captain does not deserve condemnation because of one bad game but Keshi must continue to be brave like he has been all this time.

In 1994, Keshi as Nigeria’s captain was way past his best and should not have been at the AFCON and World Cup that year (by my estimation)
However, Clemens Westahof, maybe to compensate him for his years of meritorious service to the country since 1981 took him as a non playing captain of some sorts.

Maybe Keshi should do same with Joseph Yobo because Nigerians would want to remember Yobo for the good days with Nigeria rather than the AFCON 2013 if his performance continues to dwindle.
It’s simple logic that if Yobo could be this bad against Burkina Faso he could be worse against Zambia, Ivory Coast and Ghana, depending on if paths cross.

Efe Ambrose may continue to be disgraced any time he plays for the Super Eagles if the coaches insist on playing him as right back.
I’ve always known Efe Ambrose as a central defender and sometimes playing in defensive midfield and I know Keshi tried him out in Right Back at the start of the AFCON 2013 qualifiers because of what seemed a dearth of quality right backs for the country.
One would have thought with Kenneth Omeruo in the team, Efe would be moved back to his Central defensive role ( I doubt he can get that now with the performance of Oboabona).
However, with the red card, Keshi now knows he must play without Ambrose and see how the team performs.

That inexperienced team

In Stephen Keshi’s 23 man team to the AFCON, only a few of them have been there before and going to the AFCON 11 players have had less than 10 caps each for the national team which shows a very young team but should that matter?
In 1990, the Super Eagles got the silver at the AFCON with a team of 15 from the Nigerian League who had never played the AFCON previously. At that time only 18 players were registered for the AFCON.
Besides, amongst the “inexperienced” players in this team are Emmanuel Emenike, Efe Ambrose, Victor Moses and Brown Ideye have all burned the grass at the UEFA Champions League while Echiejile has played at the FIFA World Cup.
Other inexperienced players like Ogenyi Onazi and Obiora Nwankwo have played in the FIFA U20 World Cup and Onazi now plays in the UEFA Europa Cup.
The point I’m trying to make is that we may have a young team, but they are not inexperienced in any way.
The team will get it right eventually, hopefully, they do that during the AFCON.

Nigerians fail to realize that it is just one game played at the AFCON and it is certainly not time to press the panic button. That time may not even come at this AFCON.

The ever critical Nigerian press and public must realize that group stage games at competitions like this are a three way street- you win, draw or lose. We got one of the option and for me, it’s not a big deal.

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  1. Do not flatter the Eagles. This is a very bad team as there is no creativity. There was no reason to drop Obasi and Martins. Uche is the only creative player.
    Oguda is too slow and one tackle away from incurring a penalty. Yobo is an embarrassment for a person who is supposed to shower the team with gifts of experience. Instead he is a liability. The team cannot pass the ball to save their lives. I could not wait for that torture of a match to end. Keshi had said his new team was on "fire." And I believed him. I did not see any spark, let alone a fire.

  2. Obasi? You mention Obasi? Typical nigerian. In anycase, leave your pants on, there's still more games for this team to play? How bad is Ghana's team or Morocco or Angola or Zambia? We all got the same result, didnt we?

  3. Do you believe this team can beat Togo assuming it is able to win its group let alone CIV? Barcelona play a 4-3-3 formation and that is because it has the players to play the system. With our lazy midfielders, where do we find the personell to play such a demanding system?
    We surrendered the entire midfield to the opposition and relied on long balls to get the ball out.
    Do you find anything promising in Echiele or Efe? And what is the remedy to curing Yobo's habit of lack of concentration in every match? If Martins could be dropped, Yobo should be the first player to be purged from the team.

  4. You cant compare Yobo and Martins. MArtins was dropped, but for who? Yobo? No! He was dropped for Ike Uche, Emenike and Ideye. If you ask me, it makes sense, depending on what the coach wants out of his strikers or how he wants to play. When you drop Yobo, for which defender please?
    Then you asked if this Super Eagles can beat Togo and the answer is yes they will. Ivory Coast? Not many African sides can beat them now
    Finally, Nigeria is not the best team in Africa and we all know it. You all stop acting like we are the worst

  5. Nigeria played a bit of long ball especially from Mikel because the PITCH is the WORST in this on-going AFCON. Passing became almost impossible with the terrible uneven surface and dry patches!!! What a disgrace.

    Mind you it would have been worst if the tournament was held in Nigeria. We only have one proper stadium (Abuja) and the pitch is no good either!!!

  6. The guy who said Obasi, lol..Obasi is hurt and currently out for a month, bobo hasn't played any football this season. After one game, the knives are out.

  7. I Thought the Eagles had more composure on that game except the killer instinct. We dealt with all their threat going down to 10 men anyway.

    I blamed the goal they scored on the strikers not holding the ball up not the defenders for clearing the ball.

    At the end of the day, this things happens in football, you move on and focus on your next game..