After the dust settles, what went wrong in Calabar?

The inquest did not even start when the Super Eagles lost 3-2 at home to Congo Kinshasha.

As soon as the visitors went 2-1 up, social media, especially twitter almost crashed as Nigerians began to ask questions as to why the team was losing.

Things didn’t get better as Nigeria went 3-1 down before pulling a goal back through Gbolahan Salami.

But is there one particular reason why Nigeria lost? Or are there a couple of them?

NFF crisis

Quite a lot of people have said the crisis within the ranks of the Nigeria Football Federation caused the loss. A lot were quick to blame Ambassador Chris Giwa, one of the factional leaders of the Nigerian football crisis and a few fingered Aminu Maigari, the outgoing NFF president.

But could the crisis have caused the loss? Some would argue that the crisis did not invite the players to camp, neither did it cause Onazi to stick his leg out for that penalty.

But like, President General of the Nigeria Football and other sports supporters club, Rafiu Ladipo put it to naijafootball247.com, “A house divided cannot stand.”

The players would have been distracted, so were the coaches too.

The NFF crisis could not have been what caused the defeat but it certainly was part of it.


Stephen Keshi’s contract

The coach of the team, Stephen Keshi had been in a contractual dispute with the NFF since the World Cup ended in July and there had been no head way even until now.

“As a show of patriotism” he decided to handle the Eagles against Congo and South Africa pending when his contract is formalized but how focused was he in the week before the game?

Then again, players both at international and club level want to be convinced on the long term future of their gaffers.

If Keshi had been settled a month or two ago, would the result have been different? Would the play have been different? Certainly there is no clear cut answer to that.

Quality of squad laid out

Nigerians have never agreed fully with any coach of the Super Eagles as regards team selection and with Keshi it hasn’t been different.

Nigerians wanted Ike Uche back in the squad after the World Cup. They also wanted Brown Ideye.

They didn’t want the ELkanemi goalkeeper, Obiazor in the team as replacement for Enyeama but any other goalkeeper asides the one picked by the coaches.

For the starting line up, they wanted Sone Aluko and Nosa Igiebor in it, but asides the wishes of Nigerians, the quality of the squad laid out on the day was suspect.

Agreed that coaches always have their ways in who they invite and who they play depending on how they want to shape their team and how they want their charges to play, but Oduamadi has hardly ever impressed in the Eagles.

Uche Nwofor also looked lost upfront while it seems Gbolahan Salami may have done better if he started.

Emmanuel Emenike, according to a story on www.colinudoh.com was dropped from the starting lineup because he turned up very late to camp and a coach who disciplines his players should not be hounded for it.

The defense was poor. Between Oboabona, Omeruo and Echiejile, there was definitely something wrong with a lot of unforced errors (as tennis commentators would say).

The defenders didn’t mark right, and when they had the ball, they either didn’t see the midfielders or they defied the most basic of football tactics by just booting the ball up to the front men who were more often than not outjumped by the bigger Congolese defenders.

Ogenyi Onazi, Mikel and Azeez

Now, as much Ogenyi Onazi has been the Super Eagles most loved and most hardworking player in the Keshi era, there is something obviously wrong with his game.

He lunges out wild tackles and acts on the pitch like a drunken college freshman on a shooting spree with a stolen hand gun.

One of such his actions caused Nigeria a penalty when the team was already 2-1 down.

Mikel Obi, many believe should be the team leader but is always anonymous when they most need him.

The Super Eagles playing for the first time in over a decade without Vincent Enyeama and Joseph Yobo needed a leader and Mikel did not turn up.


Underrating the Congo

Austin Ejide was quoted in an interview as saying the Eagles underrated Congo and maybe that was a factor.

It’s a known fact that as soon as you get onto the pitch underrating an opponent it is very difficult to adjust while the game is on.

Did Nigeria underrate their opponent? It did seem so.

The white witch doctor

The White Witch doctor as Claude LeRoy is called has always been a problem to the Super Eagles.

Most times he had played against Nigeria he has come out unscathed and the records are there to show.

In 1988, he was head coach of Cameroon when they played against the Eagles twice in the AFCON held in morocco.

In the group stage, the game ended 0-0 while in the final Cameroon won 1-0.

In 1992, he was manager of Senegal when they lost 2-1 to the Super Eagles, the only time a side coached by him had lost to a Nigerian side.
Stephen Keshi and Claude LeRoy exchange
 pleasantries before the game

Incidentally, current Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi scored the winning goal in that encounter.

In 2008, while coach of Ghana’s Black Stars, they eliminated Nigeria in the quarter finals of the AFCON.

So maybe he has Nigeria’s number, or maybe he got lucky once again.

Moving on

It’s a six game qualifying series and with one loss, unfortunately at home, the Eagles still have enough time to pick up the pieces.

A game played can never be replayed and the team must now look ahead to the crunch tie against the Bafana Bafana.

The blame time should be over and the time to map out strategies to ensure these factors that may have caused the Congo loss don’t show up again is now.

The Super Eagles can qualify for AFCON 2015 if the right things are done.




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