The real five things we learned about Nigeria v South Africa game

By Ufuoma Egbamuno

South Africa’s Bafana Bafana beat Nigeria for the first time in a competitive game with a 2:0 win at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo. Tokello Rantie and Percy Muzy scored to break Nigerian hearts and give the South Africans an early edge in the race for the 2019 AFCON. Journalist Ufuoma Egbamuno picks out 5 really important things to note from the game.

Vincent Enyeama
ENYEAMA STILL HAS A JOB TO DO….

Goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi has divided opinion amongst Nigerian fans. To be honest, he has never had the confidence of the average football fan if I consider the number of questions I get from listeners on my daily show. His display at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium was all glaring for anyone to see why.

With a few minutes left in the first half, a routine cross which shouldn't have caused any trouble was spilled by Akpeyi leading to Themba Zwane hitting the post. Although the centre-backs can be judged to be at fault for the first goal, maybe Akpeyi should have done better. And why didn’t he take one for the team in the build-up to the second?

Since Carl Ikeme got injured, one of the major concerns amongst fans has been who would be in goal. So much so that the clamour to bring back former captain Vincent Enyeama reached a crescendo. Only injury to the Lille goalkeeper put an end to the agitation. 

Funny enough, despite the claim by Super Eagles manager Gernot Rohr that he had spoken to Enyeama and there was a chance of a recall to the national, sources close to Enyeama say that conversation may NEVER have taken place. 

The source, who doesn't want his name revealed, told naijafootball247.com that there has been no contact as regards a return to the national from any one in the NFF since after encounter that saw Vincent quit the national team.But, that's not the issue for now.

Like Rohr after the game, I do not want to lay the blame at Akpeyi’s feet. But wouldn’t we have been served better with a goalkeeper with less jittery moments? Rivers United goalkeeper Rotimi Sunday until a week ago when he got injured has been one, if not Nigeria's most consistent goalkeeper playing at home. Would he have done a better job?

If you think inviting Rotimi is a bit of a stretch, how about, Ikechukwu Ezenwa who sat on the bench. He has shown in the few games he has played to be more assured in goal than the man who eventually kept goal. 

Bottom-line is, Vincent Enyeama still has a job to do for the Super Eagles. While I won't want to single out Akpeyi, a more experienced keeper like Enyeama would have had better organisation at the back plus instilled more confidence in an inexperienced centre-back pairing. 

IHEANACHO AIN’T NO TARGET MAN….

Kelechi Iheanacho is a fantastic finisher. His statistics of goals in matches for the Super Eagles- he has 6 in 10 games- as well as one of the best goal per minute ratio (1 every 96 minutes as at December 2016) for Manchester City are sublime. But, truth is, Iheanacho is no target man!
 
Even at City, Kelechi has never been one to lead the lines successfully. Some Nigerian fans have accused City manager, Pep Guardiola, of bias. Some who call into my radio show have even labelled him racist. But truth is there is a reason Brazilian Gabriel Jesus has overtaken the Nigerian at the Etihad

Against South Africa, his inability to run the channels, hold up play and gift possessions to the opposition was brutally exposed. To make matters worse, what the heck was he doing trudging off like he didn’t care about the game with Nigeria down by a goal? More on that later.

Make no mistake; Kelechi should still be a starter for the Super Eagles, just not as a target man. 

NO CHINA, NO LEADER? 

Gernot Rohr when asked about the omission of China based players from his team stated that the inability to monitor the players was a huge factor. He however pointed that he had been impressed with the players in camp and believe they could do the job. 

Well, the display against Bafana Bafana showed you still need the experience of the China based pros. At least, the Super Eagles showed they could have done with the help of Captain John Mikel Obi and striker Brown Ideye.

Like I pointed earlier, Kelechi is no target man. He would have been better served playing off someone like Ideye who would have held his markers better, led from the front and maybe defended better from the front. 

Plus, I’m not sure, Ideye or even Ighalo would have been trudging off the pitch when substituted with his team down by a goal.

Experience can’t be bought, not even with Chinese money

Mikel on the other hand has not had the very best of relationships with Nigerian fans but if there is one thing one cannot deny the former Chelsea man, it’s the fact that he has shown leadership qualities in the last 18 months.

Either as captain of the bronze-winning Olympic team or as captain of the Super Eagles under Rohr, Mikel has been a true leader.

In the build-up to the second goal, I turned just in time to see Akpeyi shouting at captain of the day Ogenyi Onazi to come back and watch the eventual goal scorer Percy Muzy. A few seconds later, a free-kick in our favour turned into a counter-attack which resulted in the goal.

Would we have had our entire players surge forward for a set-piece with 10 minutes still left if we had older heads in the game? Maybe not!

ORGANISATION AND SECURITY STILL A PROBLEM…..


With 30 minutes to kick off, the Godswill Akpabio Stadium was just about 50% filled. That was rare for a Super Eagles game. For all the times I’ve been to Uyo to cover the national team, the stadium is usually filled up an hour to the game. So what happened today?

A combination of high ticket price and organizational challenges I guess.
Tickets for Popular Side went for as much as N1,000 while that of the VIP stand sold for N2,000. This is against N500 and N1000 for the World Cup Qualifier against Algeria last November.

While the stadium did get up to 70-80% capacity by the start of the second half, wouldn’t it have been better to have a lower ticket price?

Security personnel didn’t help matters either with their inability to effectively man the gates.

Journalist Osasuo Obayiuwana ‘s live feed on Twitter showed just how terrible organization at the stadium was. And even the security personnel inside the stadium left their primary responsibility to cluster in a part of the stadium to watch the game. How sad!

Meanwhile, just as the game was about to kick off, internet services became non-existent at the stadium (or was it just the media tribune/VIP section?).

At first, I thought it was my network provider. Apparently, every other person I asked at the media tribune was experiencing the same thing.

Word on the street was that the security operatives jammed the signals because of the dignitaries present at the stadium. If this is true, all I can say is, REALLY?
In 2017?

How then can journalists go through with live-feeds for those posting updates online?

When a country as small as Rwanda can afford to provide FREE WIFI in their stadiums? Lord help us.

As if all of these weren’t enough, the presser after the game had to be hurriedly cut with short with Coach Gernot Rohr still speaking. The stadium announcer gave only one minute notice to leave as the lights would be going off.

I ask again, REALLY?

LE WORK, LE PLAY, LE MERIDIEN…

Coming to Uyo served two purposes for me: while the primary one was to work, I also used opportunity as a weekend getaway. For someone who is barely 4 months into marriage, I guess I would be forgiven for taking this Uyo trip as Honeymoon Reloaded.


So while the Super Eagles’ loss may have dampened many Nigerians, well, let’s just say I had a superb weekend with the Mrs. Le Work, Le Play, Le Meridien, Le Groove! Can’t wait to do this again!
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