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Super Eagles’ latest flop: Three sins of Keshi

By Nelson Dafe on 20/09/2014

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The football world was shocked to its very foundations when an unfancied Congolese national football team came to Nigeria of all places and dealt a huge blow on the Super Eagles image and chances of qualifying for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

With the final scoreline of 2-3 against Nigeria came a perhaps new realisation among Nigerians that the boasts of the Eagles players in the lead-up to games against smaller teams should not be taken seriously.

That the Eagles, complete with an avalanche of heavily paid Europe-based professionals, could be so taken to the gutters by a Congo team that has no big name, save for a coach in Claude Le Roy who has been working with football teams in the continent for ages, is almost incredible.

Perhaps it is – in fact, it is – that crucial factor of coaching experience that counted more and helped the East Africans to claim a major scalp and put a downer as far as African football is concerned at the U.J. Esuene Stadium, Calabar.

As it is, and surely must be, questions must be asked about the quality of coaching the Super Eagles had. How well did Stephen Keshi prepare his troops for that game?

If results are the direct consequences of how a team has prepared then Keshi simply has to raise his hand and admit failure this time.

If Nigerians have misgivings about how Keshi is performing in his role overall, this latest shocker would only serve to heighten Nigerian fans’ pessimism over his capability of taking the team further.

There are three major areas where Keshi is seemingly struggling really bad.

Firstly, there is the issue of tactics. A noticeable feature of Keshi’s reign as Super Eagles coach so far is the inability of his team to convince against opponents that are generally considered to be inferior to the Eagles; teams one would consider considerably smaller sides have consistently held their own against the Eagles and even with players with a wide range of experience at the topmost level of football in Europe, the Eagles have wobbled and fumbled.

In the last round of qualifiers for the 2014 Word Cup, the Eagles were made to look so ordinary in Addis Ababa by Ethiopia. Even in the second leg in Calabar, the Ethiopians showed real quality and fight and looked sharp and better organised than Nigeria, who relied on moments of individual brilliance from its glut of stars to scale through.

Kenya almost won against Keshi’s lads in Calabar in an international fixture not so long ago.

The Nations Cup triumph in South Africa last year was achieved after a horribly shaky first round performance in the group stages against Burkina Faso, Zambia and Ethiopia.

At the World Cup in Brazil, Nigeria’s most disappointing performance came against the least rated team in the group, Iran.

It sure happens in football that superior sides can sometimes struggle against weaker foes, but it could be indicative of a wider problem of tactical deficiency when it consistently happens.

Against the Red devils of Congo on Saturday, September 6, like has been the case in many such fixtures against smaller sides, Keshi’s Eagles looked bereft of ideas going forward. There were way too many long and hopeful balls that just make many a Nigerian fan pine for the return of English Premier League action to watch better coordinated build-up plays.

A second area where Keshi has come under serious questioning is in his man management skills. With the Eagles misfiring badly upfront, minds inevitably wandered to what an IK Uche (arguably Nigeria’s best striker at the moment) would have done. Alas, he is still shut out of Keshi’s Eagles, even after the punishment he suffered by being dropped from the World Cup!

Keshi sometimes comes across as that ‘boss’ who’s so sure of his methods that he thinks whatever players he uses to prosecute a match would give him results – the kind of coach in a grassroots team who boasts to recalcitrant players that he could always use any kind of player to prosecute a game.

But this is the national team and what is needed is a finer and more rounded sense of players’ personality management.

Finally, perhaps Keshi had peaked with his Eagles during the World Cup. If he had quit at that time, no matter the disappointment of having lost out in the second round, Nigerians would still have been overwhelmingly holding him in better esteem than they would if he continues to wobble now.

He came in at a time when Nigerian senior team football was at an all-time low. He rebuilt the the team with some exciting home lads, animated their appetite for success and led them to win the Nations Cup last year.

Having succeeded Samson Siasia, who was very popular until his Eagles shockingly failed to qualify for the Nations Cup in 2011, Keshi, with the loss to Congo and goalless draw away to South Africa last week Wednesday, stands a risk of not only seeing Nigeria’s senior team football return to those dark days under his watch, but also, like Siasia, risks going down the lane of coaching infamy as far as the senior national team is concerned.

•Nelson Dafe writes from Benin City.

Source News Express

Posted 20/09/2014 3:53:55 PM


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