Sunday Oliseh: 4th from the House of 94

Sunday Oliseh begins his journey as coach of the Super Eagles coach on Saturday in Tanzania.

The game, an important Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against the Tanzanians and it will be, at the risk of sounding redundant (which I am anyway) an acid test for him.

Ever since his first appearance as a guest analyst on SuperSport a few years back, Nigerians have clamoured for him to coach the national team.

Was it about his eloquence? Maybe, they still remember that goal he scored against Spain at the World Cup in 1998? Or could it be when he played the AFCON match in Nigerian in 2000 in spite of his being down with malaria? Maybe, there was just something about him Nigerians wanted.

But aside from Oliseh playing for top sides in Europe like Borussia Dortmond, Ajax and Juventus, as well as holding a UEFA coaching badge, there will be one more thing about his coming as gaffer of the national team.

He is 4th from the House of 94; 94 being the famous USA 94 World Cup team still acclaimed as many to be Nigeria’s best national team till date.

Before him, Austin Eguavoen, Samson Siasia and most recently, Stephen Keshi have been there.

The Austin Eguavoen days

According to Port Harcourt based Football writer, Carl Orakwue, Eguavoen never failed as Super Eagles coach and he still does not understand why he was removed.

A member of the Super Eagles as a player from 1987 until 1998, Eguavoen, as a player will be more remembered for an error he committed at the World Cup.

In 1994, at the World Cup, his needless foul in the box gave way for an Italian penalty in the 2nd round with Roberto Baggio scoring to give the Azzurris a 2-1 win and a year later he was at the end of a foul that led to an England goal in a friendly match.

But as a coach, he won admirers with his soft spoken style.

He hardly got into controversies with his players and he focused on his job.

He led Nigeria to win the bronze medal at the AFCON in 2006 but was replaced with Berti Vogts a few months later.

“Eguavoen did not fail,” Carl Orakwue told

“At a time when all we won was bronze medals, he gave us exactly that. I was a bit surprised the Nigeria Football Federation brought in Berti Vogts to take over from him,” Orakwue said.

Fisayo Dairo, a Port Harcourt based journalists believes Eguavoen did not have a clear cut philosophy in football management.

“I see him as an ideal national team manager because he works basically on/with the materials at hand.

“He however gave his players freedom of expression on the pitch. His teams scored goals and he slightly favoured having many attackers on the pitch. A minimum of two wingers and or two strikers.

“In Egypt 2006, his team was littered with many attacking midfielders (Okocha, Oruma, Obodo, Obiefule, Mikel et al) and he made very good use of them I dare say,” Dairo concluded.

Under Eguavoen’s watch, Nigeria had one of its biggest ever road wins in history, defeating Algeria 5-2 in Oran in a World Cup Qualifier.

He liked the big striker upfront, with the likes of Ayodele Makinwa in 2006 and Michael Eneramo in 2010. Of course there was Yakubu Aiyegbeni in the team.

Samson Siasia

At the end of Eguavoen’s reign in the team, another member of the class of 94, Samson Siasia took charge.

Siasia, as a player was Rashidi Yekini’s strike partner until he lost his place to Daniel Amokachi midway into the qualifiers for the World Cup in 1994.

As a coach he warmed himself into the hearts of Nigerians with a silver medal at the FIFA U20 World Cup in 2005 and again the Olympic Games in 2008.

He brought in a brand of football to the national team that was previously not there.

“Samson's philosophy is hinged on playing free-flowing, easy on the eye and sleek football. He always liked his team to transit from the rear to the attack with a strong midfield base,” Fisayo Dairo told

Siasia favoured the 4-4-2 formation at all levels and emphasized movement of every player on the pitch both on and off the ball.

Freedom of expression was also inherent in his coaching philosophy which made every of his teams (apart from the shambolic Flying Eagles set of 2009) a joy for an average football fan.

But Siasia had a problem with Man Managament and occasionally had spats with his key players.

There was the celebrated case with Vincent Enyeama, Osaze Odemwingie and Victor Anichebe.

He also had an issue with Osaze Odemwingie at the Olympic Games in 2008.

On the pitch, Samson Siasia’s teams where excellent and Nigerians were happy but the ultimate game against Guinea in Abuja ensured the Eagles failed to qualify for the AFCON and he was sacked.

Stephen Keshi

Known as the Big Boss in his playing days, became the 3rd from the House of 94 to coach the team he captained from 1981 to 1994.

He tried to adopt Clemens Westahof’s (the coach that handled the 94 team) philosophy of axing key players at the start and rebuilding from the home league.

In his early days the likes of John Mikel Obi, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Taiye Taiwo, Obafemi Martins, Chinedu Ogbuke could not find a way in.

He relied on the Nigerian league at first and threw in players like Godfrey Oboabona, Juwon Oshaniwa, Azubuike Egwuekwe, Sunday Mba, Chigozie Agbim as well as some previously obscure foreign based players as Brown Ideye, Kenneth Omeruo, Ogenyi Onazi and Fengor Ogude.

His initial style was hinged on a robust midfield of three ball winners, fast wingers and a big center forward.

He loved his team to pass the ball around and then break out on the wings.

His style (and the unknown factor) helped him qualify for and win the AFCON and then things began to fall apart for him and his team.

With Keshi gone eventually, yet another player from the USA 94 team, Sunday Oliseh is about to show Nigerians and the world what he has to offer.

Sunday Oliseh

Everything about Sunday Oliseh will be hinged on the x-factor.

Nobody, except for himself and assistants know his philosophy or style having that he has never coached before.

Everything he does for the national team will be a first.

Some will say Oliseh is too inexperienced for the job. He has never coached before (the village selection he handled in Belgium does not count), an argument that could be defeated by mentioning the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Jurgen Klinsmann and Diego Maradona.

However, the Beckenbauer, Klinsmann and Maradona argument can be defeated with the fact that those countries have a structure any coach can build on, unlike Nigeria.

Nigerians and the Federation wanted him so badly that he will be respected by them.

It is believed that Federation executives all but went down on their knees to beg him to accept the job as his default mode was that he didn’t want it.

Hopefully, there will be peace in the ranks until something happens; something that always happens.

My Oliseh verdict

After the World Cup of 2014 and the fiasco that consumed the Nigerian football scene, it was obvious that changes were needed and Keshi would have found it difficult to work if his bosses were not on the same page as himself.

Sunday Oliseh as inexperienced as he is as a coach can qualify for the AFCON and probably win it.

On appointment as coach, Oliseh told the BBC "We have the talent to change our fortunes, to regain the respect we once had and match that with results,"

"This is the biggest job in African football. With everyone's support we can get the Super Eagles flying again." He said.

He must however take time to study the success and failure stories of Eguavoen, Siasia and Keshi.

Eguavoen did not have time for the Nigerian League and depended too much on foreign based players; the form and fitness of a lot of them failed him and he never had a plan B to fall back on.

Siasia got into a lot of ego battles with his key players and his man management skills were poor.

Keshi could not find a way to work with his bosses, a lot of key players suddenly lost their places in the team and the focus was no longer there because he fought too many off the pitch battles.

If he doesn’t learn from his predecessors and falls into making the same mistakes as they did, then the likes of Emeka Ezeugo, Emmanuel Amuneke, Daniel Amokachi, Finidi George and maybe, Mike Emenalo, all members of that House of 94 may just be waiting their turn at a bite of the cherry.

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