Posted by Nelson Dafe, Benin City | 6 September 2015 | 3,766 times
Sunday Oliseh made his bow as Super Eagles coach in an African Nations Cup (AFCON) qualifying match against Tanzania yesterday in Dar es Salam. In the end it was a lukewarm rather than convincing performance from the Eagles. Here are five major talking points from the game.
1. Oliseh’s humbling start could be a good sign
News Express publisher Isaac Umunna was not being facetious when he stated on Facebook that “Indeed, there’s a big difference between theory and practical!” He was referring to the “baptism of fire” that Oliseh’s debut was proving to be as Tanzania ran rings around his team.
That the Eagles struggled in this first game with Oliseh in charge, gives the coach a humbling experience with which to appreciate the enormity of the task of making the Eagles great again.
A great start perhaps could have got into the head of the young gaffer and made him to think it was an easier than expected task of turning the Super Eagles fortunes around. But now, he should know, if he didn’t, that to get the Eagles to the level of the Clemence Westerhof/Bonfrere Jo days would take a lot more effort and analytical work than mere talk – Oliseh having made a post-playing name as a smooth-talking TV pundit.
2. Oliseh has the swagger of ‘Africa’s Guardiola’
When Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Chairman Amaju Pinick referred to Sunday Oliseh as Africa’s Guardiola during the latter’s unveiling in July, many felt the reference was mostly because Oliseh, like the Spaniard, was a young ex-player with fresh and exciting ideas of how the modern game should be played.
But on Saturday afternoon as the Eagles battled with the Taifa Stars of Tanzania, Oliseh showed himself to be like Guardiola, even if not in brains, with his gestural behaviour as well.
Like the Spaniard, Oliseh was animated throughout the 90 minutes of the game, directing his players like an orchestra conductor.
Even though the Eagles performance wasn’t convincing, it was refreshing to see the coach showing his mental involvement with every aspect of the team’s play.
3. Nigeria’s long ball syndrome needs to be worked on and erased
It was a difficult second half for Nigeria when Tanzania went for the kill in order to secure all points available. One ugly aspect of the Eagles’ play that has been a feature of their style for many years now, showed up again. When with the ball and with the opponents pressing high and quick, the Eagles lacked the confidence, as well as tactical and technical depth, to pass their way out of trouble. Most of the time they just opted to clear the ball to the sky and give possession to the opponents in the process.
A sharp contrast could be seen in the Tanzanian play as the Taifa Stars applied intense pressure on Nigeria in the second half with their crisp and sharp passing that ended up opening the Nigerian defence up, with goalkeeper Carl Ikeme coming to the rescue most of the time.
4. Carl Ikeme’s arrival signals the end for Vincent Enyeama’s international career
The bright spark from a largely dour Super Eagles play against Tanzania came from Wolverhampton Wanderers of England goaltender Carl Ikeme.
The ’keeper was the Nigerian saviour as he made daring saves to deny Tanzania a win on Saturday. He was calm when he needed to be, looked spectacular with his reflexes and dominant in the air to deal with crosses.
With team captain Vincent Enyeama in his twilight days after years of meritorious service to the nation, Ikeme at 29 is the logical choice for the long term successor of the former. The big challenge is now for Oliseh to decide how he eases Ikeme in by giving him more playing time, since Enyeama has not retired.
5. Our best legs in Europe must be called up to fight for a starting place
During the Nigeria vs Tanzania match, with the Eagles misfiring, many fans at the viewing centre where this writer watched the game were warning that Oliseh was making the same mistake the man he replaced – Stephen Keshi – made. They openly wondered why some top players who are currently doing well in their clubs were not called up. Watford’s Odion Ighalo and Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho were two names that were repeatedly mentioned.
The unconvincing performance of the lads Oliseh put out in attack on Saturday afternoon gives weight to the sense of disbelief in the omission of the aforementioned English Premier League players.
The best legs must be invited to fight for a shirt henceforth. No need having largely unknown players in the starting 11, and on the bench, who might not make an impact when push comes to shove. It is psychologically reassuring to have your best legs around to give more latitude for effective substitutions when things aren’t going well with others.
•Nelson Dafe is Benin City Correspondent of News Express. Photo shows Coach Sunday Oliseh.
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