T he Super Eagles were on a tour of the United States recently under the new manager of the team, Jose Peseiro. Against Mexico in the first match, Nigeria lost 2-1 with the only goal scored by Cyril Derssers while an own goal conceded by William Troost-Ekong confirmed the victory for the Latin American side. In the second friendly against Ecuador, Eagles again slumped to a lone goal defeat. We commend the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) for the tour which was aimed at getting the team ready for the back-toback Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying games – the first which kicks off this evening with a game against Sierra Leone Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja.
Despite the two defeats, Peseiro is positive that the Nigerian team will come good under his watch but his first true test will be the AFCON qualifiers. We, however, make bold to say that the task of winning the first two games against Sierra Leone and Sao Tome & Principe is a big burden on the shoulders of Peseiro.
The friendlies are just tune-up games, the real issues are the two AFCON qualifiers. Sad enough, it is on record that the Eagles have lost three of their last five matches. After the 1-0 AFCON second round defeat against Tunisia, Eagles recorded a draw and loss against Ghana which was bad enough to send the country out of the race for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. And only recently, two defeats. History has shown that new coaches in the past recorded poor results for Eagles because they were yet to get to know the players well.
This excuse will not be tenable for Peseiro because the Eagles have not been inspiring in the past and the hurt of losing the Qatar 2022 ticket is still fresh and so he has no margin for error. A top footballing country like Nigeria should be counting gains and not losses. After a string of losses, Eagles with the new technical crew will have to move forward. There should be a semblance of hope in concrete terms while all other problem areas must be looked into to give an assurance for the future. The new manager is earning a huge salary and there should be no excuses whatsoever at a time soccer-loving Nigerians are hoping to see a new look Eagles.
We must not forget that the same Sierra Leone came to Benin City and recorded a 4-4 draw after going down 4-0 in November 2020 in a 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying game. They will be back confident and thinking of a victory and so Peseiro and the boys must be careful today in Abuja. But getting the Eagles back on track also involves the administrative aspect because the matches are won not only during the active 90 minutes on the pitch.
The NFF must provide the enabling environment to make Eagles fly as expected. Speaking after the friendly reversals, Eagles’ captain, William Troost- Ekong, was still optimistic that the team will come good in competitive games. “We were not happy to have lost to Mexico and Ecuador because we all worked very hard. The issues of long travel and little time to adapt to the new zone affected us all but we created chances especially against Mexico but we were just unlucky. Nevertheless, we have taken on board a lot of lessons from the game and they will be quite useful in subsequent matches,” Troost-Ekong said. Peseiro, like Ekong, is confident about the future of the Eagles.
He also expressed confidence that the Super Eagles could go all the way to win the next AFCON finals billed for Cote d’Ivoire next year. We hereby charge the Manager to match his words with action in his quest to get it right with the Super Eagles because there are many problem areas to be sorted out. The goalkeeping and defence areas are not top notch and can be improved upon while the midfield too is a big issue because of the lack of creativity in the vital area.
There is a need to get at least two players that will be good with passing ability to help the strikers. Solving these problems could be gradual but Peseiro must fashion a developmental strategy that will also embrace 80 percent winning instinct. This is because Nigerians are tired of the poor results recorded by the team in recent times. The inclusion of few domestic league players for the USA tour was good. We expect Peseiro to set up a good monitoring team to get the best from the country’s league.
A more reliable goalkeeper can come from the NPFL. The baptism of the new Eagles Manager today in Abuja is crucial in many ways – the team is going into the game on the back of a string of poor results while Peseiro himself is just getting to know the players. It is imperative that the Portuguese avoids entering the history books with an unwanted record of becoming the first Eagles handler to have lost his first three games – which is why a good outing is a must today. We wish the Super Eagles all the best as they kick start their Cote d’Ivoire 2023 qualification campaign.