By Uzor Odigbo Snr. Correspondent, Lagos
Indeed, the Super Eagles gaffer, Stephen Keshi, has lately come under intense lashes for lack of fire-power to deliver the goals and reduce the heartache among Nigerian football fans.
How can one appreciate a situation where the national team has consistently been undergoing rebuilding process for two years and Nigerians are seeing nothing other than near misses and catalogue of goal-less draws in matches which they obviously could have won?
Sports analysts and opinion leaders have taken a strong look at the team the coach is rebuilding and finally concluded that if care is not taken, Nigeria might suffer a home defeat by teams relatively referred as to minnows.
No wonder the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) boss, Aminu Maigari, made it clear to Keshi that the time is up for the Super Eagles to start winning games convincingly again.
Speaking at a breakfast meeting with the Eagles’ coaching crew recently, Maigari insisted that though Nigerians have shown commendable understanding for the on-going re-building process, victory in today’s 2013 African Cup of Nations qualifying match at the U. J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar is non-negotiable.
“We are happy to remain at the head of the qualifying group for the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification race, despite drawing in Malawi. But there will be no room for a draw on Saturday. It is a match we must win.
“I also want you to devise a strategy that will ensure a convincing win. We are re-building but there are matches that we cannot afford to let slip. This is one match that we must win.
For coaches who usually read lips, Keshi should realize that Maigari fully understands the words he used and he also meant it. He is merely saying that Keshi should trash Rwanda to justify his rebuilding process.
Rwanda’s national team a.k.a Amavubis have similar pattern of play like Malawi, Namibia, Kenya and Angola national teams, and these teams had once in the past denied Nigeria a slot at the nations cup and the world Cup tournaments.
Nigeria merely survived a defeat in the first leg in Kigali, and ended the game goal-less. Rwanda is no longer minnows a couple of home-based players would engage, in as much as Nigerians believe so much in the rebuilding process, the Samson Siasia’s example still hunts badly.
Sports analyst and lawyer, Godwin Dudu-Orumen, says Keshi’s rebuilding process is getting one fatigued.
According to him, there’s nowhere in the world a team undergoes rebuilding process for two years without a standing 11, adding that Keshi would have continued his catch-up process where Siasia stopped.
“I’m getting fatigued about the whole issue. I don’t even know the teams we are playing anymore. Our players keep changing, this time around, the team is populated by home-based players who could not win the CAF Africa nations cup for home-based players. Tell me, how can such bunch qualify Nigeria for Nations cup and the World cup. It’s like failing WAEC exams and at the same time, sitting for an A-level test.”
He also noted that Rwanda has a culture of team play, which their Nigerian counterpart does not have; their players are also dedicated and obey instructions. He insisted that the opponents might not be eager to feature at the world cup but they have a target of appearing at the Nations cup, what target do we have?
Keshi however insisted that he is building a team for the future.
“I am very happy the boys are developing, they are progressing, but it’s going to take a while.
“I still have some other players who are not here that I’m going to give an opportunity for them to come in and play – and try to build a very strong team for Nigeria.”
Nigeria has another match this weekend, when they host Rwanda in the second leg of 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. And it is must win for Nigeria because the first leg ended in a 0-0 draw.
“We will go home and readjust whatever mistakes we made in Malawi and take it from there,” Keshi said.
He also said that the crew and the players realize very much what Saturday’s clash means and promised that the team will deliver.
“We know it is an important step for us to get back into the African Cup of Nations, which we missed this year. Everyone knows how critical this match is. However, we will play without pressure in order for us to deliver.”
Super Eagles goalkeeper and interim captain, Vincent Enyeama, who by all intent and purposes was allegedly responsible for the goal scored by Malawi on the dot of the extra-time in Blantyre is urging his team-mates to brace up for Rwanda in today’s game.
“We were supposed to win in Malawi and it didn’t happen, that is now in the past. We must forget that and be ready to beat Rwanda silly to qualify for the next Nations Cup. Don’t forget gentlemen that we failed to qualify for the last Nations Cup and God forbid, thunder will not striker twice on a spot in our time. That is why I’m begging us to leave issues of last week behind and get ready to pound Rwanda for the Nations Cup,” he said.
However, Former Flying Eagles coach, Tunde Disu, says he enjoys Keshi’s rebuilding process as it has opened another yawning vista for home-based players to develop.
“When you look at the type of players Keshi used to prosecute the match, you have no choice but to praise his efforts. The big boys like Osaze Odemwingie, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Mikel Obi, Joel Obi and Joseph Yobo were all not present, yet Nigeria was still able to get the three points from the game against Namibia in Calabar.
“You have no reason not to praise the coaching crew. It means that the experimentation they have been doing since Keshi took over is beginning to yield dividend. Mark you I am not saying that there is no room to still accommodate a few of the players who are committed to Nigeria’s cause.
“I quite agree that most of these top players have had hectic season in both the domestic leagues and in UEFA competitions and that is not enough for the kind of excuses you hear from most of these Europe-based professionals.
“I am also saying this because we have all seen their colleagues play for their various countries in both the World Cup qualifiers and friendly matches leading to the 2012 European Championships going on in Ukraine and Poland.
“What this translates to is that there is no commitment from our boys. From this backdrop, it becomes difficult for anyone to want to question why Keshi is relying mainly on the players from our league at home here.”
Speaking specifically on Rwanda, Disu said the present Super Eagles have everything a coach requires to beat Rwanda. Nigeria picked a healthy draw in Kigali, who says they would not score at home and send out Rwanda without deposit? Disu queried.