When Americans use the expression, ‘Fall apart like a $2 suitcase’, they refer to situations where either a good argument, or someone who they expect to stand strong, disintegrates under the slightest of pressures. The home based Eagles fit well into that parameter following their 4-1 melt-down at Cape Coast in the Final of the 2017 WAFU Cup Final. But as always, there are lessons for the NFF, Salisu Yusuf, and the coaching crew in that defeat.
First let’s get the excuses out of the way: Ghana had been in camp longer than Nigeria. They started preparations for CHAN long before Nigeria, but they failed to qualify for that tournament. They poured all their energy into this one, and they are deserved winners. The coach of the Nigerian team, Salisu Yusuf, told the media his wards are finding life difficult on the natural grass pitch at Cape Coast. Most of the pitches approved for Nigeria League matches are artificial. It is not important at this point whether the argument is legitimate or not, it was offered. Here are the lessons.
The Nigerian team needs new talent. That was clear from the first game, and it became progressively evident as the competition went on. Credit to Ikechukwu Ezenwa, despite shipping four goals in the final, his brilliance in goal covered the lapses of the team. The media had pointed out that some players that excelled in the League were left out. While it should be pointed out that teams succeed better with good components parts than when choked-full with stars, maybe it’s time to revisit that conversation.
The team lacked flow, playing from the back. And that may well be because they didn’t have enough time to train together for long, or that they lacked a creative midfielder. The fact that they play in the same league doesn’t translate to instant understanding. Since the WAFU tournament is here to stay, maybe it’s time to use the international window to bring home based players together for training camps too.
The team needs a good psychologist. It’s as simple as that. The Eagles may not be top-notch, but they are not 4-1 bad. They failed to match the energy of the Ghanaians from the get-go, and were second best on 50-50 balls all night. They won the first game 2-0, and it was clear the Black Stars were going to come at them. Yet they didn’t look ready.
Finally, the NFF can’t keep sending signals that the Super Eagles are superior to the other teams. Even if it’s true, we don’t want to see it. While we acknowledge that we can’t win every tournament, we should give all teams the same treatment. We can condemn the performance of these boys in the Finals, but they were hung out to dry.
The CHAN tournament is a bigger one and Yusuf and his crew now know what they’re up against: poor midfield play, anxious defence and listless front runners. The CHAN tournament is still three months away; Salisu and his bosses at the NFF have enough time to make better preparations.
PHOTO CREDIT: Wafu Cup Media