Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mission Accomplished

I AM of the opinion that Cote d’ Ivoire, Ghana and Zambia still have better chances of winning AFCON 2013 ahead of Nigeria. The first two because they are stronger and have more tested teams; Zambia because they are more cohesive and have grown in confidence since their surprise 2012 triumph.

Having said that, I expect that the Super Eagles will still command some respect in South Africa because of Nigeria’s pedigree in African football. And if given the slightest chance by the favourites, our boys will take full advantage. But I’m not tipping the Eagles to win the trophy.

Considering their present disjointed state, I will be more than happy if the Eagles emerge from the tournament with a solid and recognisable first team capable of playing more cohesively when the 2014 World Cup qualifiers resume. Keshi should seize the extended period he has with the players now to build his team both for the AFCON and the World Cup qualifiers because he won’t get another chance after the AFCON.

– From Soccertalk, December 26, 2012


THE ABOVE quote is a reminder of my expectations and the primary objective that I set for the Super Eagles going into the 29th Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa. With the tournament now at the semi-final stage and the Eagles surprisingly still in contention, I hereby declare “Mission Accomplished.”

No, that is NOT a premature declaration. Yes, I know that the tournament is not over and the Eagles have not won the trophy. But winning the trophy was not my charge to Stephen Keshi and his boys. Read my quote again: All I wanted was a “solid and recognisable” first team that would prosecute our up-coming 2014 World Cup qualifiers which resume in March. I believe we have that team now, so, for me, it’s mission accomplished. Any other achievement – for instance, beating Mali in today’s semi-final and possibly winning the trophy outright on Sunday – will be an added super, super bonus.

Let’s face it: how many of us tipping the Eagles for the trophy today, thought they would even reach the semi-finals just a few weeks ago? For sure, not many.

Last Sunday, the Eagles gave us a pleasant surprise by out-thinking, out-playing and out-scoring a star-studded Ivorian team 2-1 to throw the tournament wide open. But what I found most pleasing about it all was the emergence of THAT “solid and recognisable” Super Eagles first eleven. And they were so solid that Keshi did not make a single substitution until a few minutes to the end when he introduced captain Joseph Yobo merely to run down the clock and kill off the game.

Prior to the tournament, Yobo was a certainty in central defence, but home boy Godfrey Oboabona and the young Kenneth Omeruo have confirmed at this tournament that they will be our first choice centre backs when the World Cup qualifiers resume. Before now, Ahmed Musa was an automatic choice on the right wing, but following his consistently disappointing performances (to be honest, I really wasn’t surprised by his fumbles), Brown Ideye has stepped in to show that he is more effective playing alongside Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses in a three-man attack. Musa will now have to work very hard if he is not to lose his place in the squad entirely.

Also before the tournament, home boy Sunday Mba was an “unknown quantity” who was not in reckoning at all for a starting shirt. That was probably why the Ivorians allowed him to run free before he scored the winning goal, thinking he was a nobody. They surely would have closed down a Moses or Emenike very quickly, but didn’t expect such a run from Mba. Now, following his impressive performances against Ethiopia and Cote d’ Ivoire, the Enugu Rangers lad has equally stamped his place in the Super Eagles first team alongside Mikel Obi, Ogenyi Onazi and Fengor Ogude in a strong Eagles midfield.

What about the coach himself, Stephen Keshi. He was under tremendous pressure before the tournament. A lot of people had lost faith in his rebuilding process and dismissed him as lacking technical expertise. But after holding his own creditably against three white coaches so far at South Africa 2013, including the Ivorian coach Sabri Lamouchi, who confessed that he was completely out-foxed, Keshi is beginning to win respect as a coach capable of going places

At last, a “solid and recognisable” Super Eagles first team is finally emerging from Keshi’s months of “rebuilding” the national team. For those of us who have  supported that process from the start, our patience is paying off and the fulcrum of a  new Super Eagles has finally emerged. What the team needs now is to consolidate and they will be ready for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers which promises to be even more difficult than the on-going Nations Cup. But we will have time to talk more about that later.

Back to the present, the Eagles’ performance against the Ivorians was simply a demonstration of the innate  “Nigerian Spirit” that we have always spoken about. When you put Nigeria down; when you write her off; when majority of the fans and pundits like me don’t expect much from the Super Eagles, that is when they are most dangerous; and that is when they surprise us. The Elephants discovered that too late last Sunday in Rustenburg and they paid a heavy price.

Paradoxically, it is when you expect so much from the Eagles that they often disappoint. And that is why my appeal today is that those of us who did not believe at the start of the tournament that the Eagles could win it should NOT start believing now. We should remain in total disbelief or, at best, sit on the fence so that our collective doubts will again propel the players to unleash their “Nigerian Spirit” in anger at being under-rated.

At the post-match conference following the win over Cote d’Ivoire, Stephen Keshi sarcastically thanked his Nigerian critics for inspiring his team to victory. In truth, chances are that Nigeria would not have won had we sang their praises before the match. The praise-singing seems to get into the players’ heads and that makes them lose focus. Last Sunday, it happened to the Elephants. They were the clear favourites, but they took Nigeria for granted and lost the game.

Against Mali in today’s semi-final, the Super Eagles are now the favourites and that means the pressure is on them (Nigeria) to win. They must not repeat the mistake made by the Elephants. They must not under-rate the Malians.
They must be business-like from the first whistle just like they were against the Ivorians. If they maintain the level of last Sunday’s impeccable performance for the rest of the tournament, not only would they beat Mali in today’s semis, they would win the final on Sunday as well.

That is how well the Super Eagles have evolved and transformed from an uncoordinated, hesitant and unconvincing team during the last two weeks to now become a genuine contender for the Nations Cup.
Good luck Nigeria. A third African title is long, long overdue.

BIBLICAL MOSES, “QURANIC EAGLES”

SUPER Eagles  winger Victor Moses drew a lot of comparison with the famous Biblical Prophet Moses when his two penalty goals successfully guided Nigeria through Ethiopia’s “Red Sea” into the quarter finals of the Nations Cup last week. But the Eagles romance with the holy scriptures apparently did not end there.

Nigeria’s 2-1 victory over Cote d’Ivoire also reminded me of Surah Al-fil (Chapter of the Elephant) in the Holy Quran which reads thus:

“Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the owners of the Elephant? Did He not make their plot go astray? And He sent against them birds in flocks. Striking them with stones of baked clay. And He made them like an empty field of stalks of which the corn has been eaten up by cattle.” (Quran chapter 107, verses 1-5)

Last Sunday, the birds (Super Eagles?) stoned the Elephants (CIV?) with two solid goals, made their plot (tactics?) go astray and threw them out of the field (football field in Rustenburg?) like corn eaten up by cattle. What a coincidence. Who says there’s nothing in a name?!

FEEDBACK BEFORE THE QUARTER-FINAL VS COTE D’IVOIRE

Having escaped the threat of first round elimination by beating Ethiopia, anything can happen in the quarter finals. Cote d’Ivoire is a very good team but the Eagles always perform better against a very good team. Happy New moon. –– Jacob D. Korode, Offa.

Hello Mumini, whether the Eagles qualify or not, Samson Siasia should come back or Sunday Oliseh should take over. I hope Amokachi have seen the difference when he was crucifying Siasia. We are coming home on Sunday, Chikena. –– Moses Ibilou fm Lagos.

Dear Sir, many Nigerians were certainly relieved after the victory over Ethiopia. But the Eagles do not posses the ‘Super’ tag of the team we used to have in the past. Against Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria will have no place to hide - the day of reckoning is here. But I do hope and pray that the Elephants will bring out the best in the Eagles that will catapult Nigeria into the semi-final against all odds. –– Emmanuel Jack Udoh, Apapa, Lagos.

Mumini, Keshi should know that some Nigerians suffer from HBP and he should not worsen their case. Football coaching require sharp thinking in situations that we found ourselves against Ethiopia. Most times Keshi looked lost and could not offer or dish out instructions on how to wriggle out of bad situation. Against CIV, we have come to the end of the road as far as AFCON 2013 is concerned. Good night. –– Collins Onyeulo, Publisher Igbolife Magazine.

Salam Alaikum Bro. Mumini. It will take a miracle for Nigeria to beat Cote d’Ivoire. There is disaffection in the team and it’s visible in their play. We should be honest with ourselves and get a foreign coach to work with our local coaches for at least four years. Enough is enough with local coaches. – Ibrahim Gaga, Abuja
The Eagles were not dominant despite the victory over Ethiopia. The Cote d’Ivoire game will be more difficult and we need to do much better and get our tactics right. – Pastor Eyebiokin.

Mr. Alao ‘The Octopus!’ I have always enjoyed your very objective analysis, especially in this Nations Cup. For me, Siasia is better than Keshi, but then, we will have to make do with the Big Boss now. Super Eagles have started flying and I predict a 3-1 victory for Nigeria against Ghana in the finals. – Kim.

Senior Comrade, the fact that we qualified for the quarter finals does not mean that we are a superb side but the bitter truth is that Nigerians expect so much from a team that consist of average and struggling players. Keshi will need ample time to build the Super Eagles of our dreams. I think this team need a psychologist to enhance their performance. However, we should accept whatever result we get from the match against the star-studded CIV in good faith and allow Keshi continue the rebuilding process. But this does not mean that the Ivorians would trample on the Eagles, it is still a 50-50 game. – Joseph Odoekwu, Sports Intelligence Magazine.

Alhaji, Eagles went to Atlanta ‘96 Olympics as underdogs and won the gold medal. Something keeps telling me that the Eagles might come out victorious against the Elephants and then go on to win the Cup. That would give birth to another Eagles team that will be dreaded in Africa. Let’s pray for Nigeria. – Bakare from Badagry.

This is the time the absence of Haruna, Martins and Osaze will be felt in the Eagles against CIV. Only God and luck can help us out because we do not have a complete team yet. Stephen Keshi should be sacked even if he gets to the final because he was biased and refused to go to the AFCON with our tested stars. – DAN D.

Mumini , the Eagles were quivering and shaky as you rightly said. This was resulting from the hard luck and poor officiating they had from the previous games. But now, the set up is different against CIV. Watch out for a great game! – Patrick Ogbu.

Keshi is my favourite coach anyday no matter what people say. But if he could not find a SINGLE player from the Yoruba race to be part of the 23-man Eagles squad despite living most of his teen years in Lagos, then it’s unfortunate (sentiments apart). Anyway, we’ll invoke Oduduwa to help the team win the Cup but Keshi must bring the trophy to Oyo and Ile-Ife before taking it to Abuja. – Dosu Moses.

Nigeria’s two AFCON trophies were won by foreign coaches. Indigenous coaches are noise makers. Mumini, I wonder what Complete Sports will publish next week after the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire must have trampled upon the Super Chickens. – Osaze, Warri.

FEEDBACK AFTER QUARTER-FINAL

APOLOGY! I’m sincerely sorry for writing the Super Eagles off before the CIV game. I’ll never make such ‘utterances’ and mistake again. – Osaze, Warri.

Congratulations to Stephen Keshi and his boys for the wonderful performance against Cote d’Ivoire. Now, I can see that the future of the Eagles is bright with Keshi. With hard work, the Eagles can go all the way. – Jenas Joshua, Ikeja, Lagos.

Bros, Alao we don’t need an Octopus to tell us it is our turn again to win the AFCON trophy. – Uma, WARRI.

Dear Alhaji, I think Super Eagles can win this Nations Cup. On December 28, last year while having my siesta, I had a dream that the Eagles won the Cup with celebration gallore in Nigeria. How I really wish the dream would come true. We should be positive because impossible is nothing! – Solomon Adeleye.

Mr Octopus, I re-read your Reality Check-2 which analysed how France bounced back from missing USA ’94 World Cup after conceeding a late goal against Bulgaria only to become world champions at France ’98. It seems Nigeria will repeat history having missed the last AFCON by conceeding late goal to Guinea only to find herself now at the semi-final after eliminating the favourites Cote d’Ivoire with all the Toures, Drogbas, Gervinhos and Kalous of this world. – Adebisi Dunmoye.

Hi Mumini, the stone the builders rejected (Supersonic Super Eagles) has become the head of the cornerstone. There is no country like Nigeria. – K.B Father, Ojodu, Lagos.

The Super Eagles have cured my hypertension. The Cup is ours. – Nze Green.

Kudos to the Super Eagles for making Nigeria proud. Those that wrote the team off against CIV should apologise now. – Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, Abia.

Mumini, these Eagles have done the almost impossible. I take my words and criticisms back and eat them. May be I should refer to them as a bunch “that come to the party when you do NOT expect them to.’’ Pleasant surprises are better than empty boasts. We need more of this performance. – Howard Odigie, Lagos.

Eagles were underdogs against CIV but won. So we should not get complacent against Mali now that we are favourites. – Emeka, Benin City.

These are the new Eagles of hope with a new spirit and unity. After several years, we now have a team that really want to fly despite Nigerian fans not being supportive enough. Ideye is the new Amokachi, Moses the new Amuneke while Emenike is the new Yekini. Yet, the work has just started. – Israel James, Apapa Berger.

16 comments:

  1. "They must be business-like from the first whistle just like they were against the Ivorians. If they maintain the level of last Sunday’s impeccable performance for the rest of the tournament, not only would they beat Mali in today’s semis, they would win the final on Sunday as well." I cannot agree more with you sir. Provided the Super Eagles keep their focus by not underrating any opponents, starting with the semi-final game against Mali today, I have a strong feeling that Nigeria's name on the trophy has been written in the sky (heaven).

    Moreso, South Africa has been a good hunting ground for Nigerian national teams. The Flying Eagles won the last African Youth Championship in South Africa in 2011, The Super Falcons won the African Women Championship in 2004 & 2010 there as well.

    In addition, Nigeria won her 2 Afcon titles when the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun failed to qualify (1980 & 1994) & we played Ivory Coast on both occasions. May history repeat itself. AMEN!!!

    GO EAGLES!!! THIS IS WRITTEN IN THE SKY!!!

    Wishing the Super Eagles the best of luck in today's game & hopefully the final on Sunday.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oga Mumuni,
    Methinks the game against Mali would be won by Pace.
    The Super Eagles must play at a fast tempo because Mali prefers the slow and methodical build-ups.
    Like against CIV, it is going to be a midfield war. Win the midfield, and Mali is beaten.
    Mali is going to play a game of containment, except if Nigeria scores first; they won't mind if the game goes to penalties, where Mali should fancy their chances because of Diakite.
    So Nigeria must impose a fast-tempo game.
    Nigeria is winning: Mali just doesn't have enough weapons to hurt Nigeria.

    ReplyDelete
  3. win or lose today, God has given us another set of super fantastic magnificent super eagles to rule Africa and if possible the world if Keshi is allowed to complete the excellent work he has started.
    Kenny from Kaduna

    ReplyDelete
  4. The problem with Nigeria is that we only wake up when we are put down. Nigerians are generally humble when they have nothing to show but let them achieve something tangible, pride creeps in and ultimately prove to be their downfall. I seriously hope the SE and the coach do not fall into this trap.
    I was not expecting anything the SE to go far but for the sake of patriotism, I still supported them. After all, there is no joy whenever they lose no matter how well you prepare yourself for it.
    Keshi should rather be grateful to the press and critics for spurring the team to victory. At the end of the day, they are playing for the nation, and if vast majority of your nation doubt your ability, it is because you gave them reasons to. Nigerians should stop being apologetic!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oga Mumini,

    suddenly,everybody is tipping eagles to win..well im still not tipping them anyway..our football needs 2 yrs break so that we can put solid infrastructure on ground for thriving future in this round leather game..SIMPLE...Emmanuel

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's funny and very annoying to hear most of the people criticizing and speaking negatively against Keshi and this young Nigerian team suddenly tipping the Eagles to win the tournament. I think u people should bury your faces in shame for lack of patience and doubt in this Coach and young lads trying their best to make Nigerians proud. I like to ask...what are you doing or have done to project the good image of this country?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I pray that the super eagles this trophy but if not, that will serve us right! That is what you get when you keep talking negatively about yourself. Death and Life are in the power of the tongue!

    ReplyDelete
  8. What else to say?

    The core of the players to prosecute the 2014 WC qualifiers has unfolded.again we should remember injuries are part of players' careers and the team still need to be fortified with playersd like Jeol chukwuma Obi of Inter Milan,Nnamdi Oduamadi on that left or right flank,that home based right full back if still inform,Mike eneramo.Echiejile needs support at that left full back position while Raheem Lawal is surely needed in the middle apck.Do nor forget Bright Dike from Timberwolves in the US.The goalkeeping ddept. is well secured.
    Yobo's time is almost over with the emergence of Omeruo,Oboabana,eguikwe and he may end up a sitting captain as we've seen.thank god for Yobo's ankle injury in d 1st game and the fact tha Keshi gave Omeruo a call up to d national team.What a riht timining.This boy puts his head to all balls,legs to all tackles.what Omeruo lack in sizemhe makes up for in agility,focus,versatality.He plys like Gentle giant of old,very composed,confident on the ball.

    I pray we win this cup NOW coming so cl;ose and playing so well.The youthfulness and the naes these boys wanted to make for themselves will see them thru.

    longlive Super Egles,CompletesSports and Nigeria.afterall,Goodluck is our portion

    ReplyDelete
  9. I cannot help but wonder why some Nigerians are so quick to start to ridiculing other Nigerians simply because they think other Nigerians were wrong to doubt the ability of the SE to win AFCON at the beginning and are now hoping they win it.
    Kudos to Keshi and the boys for raising their games when it matters but at the end of the day, the truth is that their most ardent critics probably did more to motivate them than their "yes yes" supporters.
    Anyone who ever lead or manage others should know the difference between blind optimism, critical optimism and destructive pessimism.

    ReplyDelete
  10. It is not a matter of doubt, but rather, that of uninformed analysis. Most people that write or talk about football, especially here in Nigeria know next to nothing about football. A good follower of the Green Eagles in 1989 will recollect (especially those in Ibadan) that when Nigeria played Cameroun for a place in the 1990 WC, in June to be precise, Paul Hamilton was the Coach and Stephen Keshi was the Captain, still playing for Anderlect in Belgium. During the half time pep-talk, It was Stephen Keshi, a player on the pitch that was dishing out the second half strategy while the coach and other players listened intently. I don't know if Mumini Alao was in Ibadan that day (if he was, he should comment here). NTA Ibadan crew was present, may be you could ask them for the tape. At the end of the match, despite the impressive nature and stature of the Camerounians, Keshi out foxed them that the match ended 2 - 0 advantage Nigeria! His banishment from Nigerian league because of a player revolt he masterminded as the then captain of Green Eagles and captain of NNB of Benin led to the positive exodus of Nigerian players first to other African leagues and then significantly, European leagues. The point I am making is that no Nigerian, living or dead has had such positive significant impact on our football as Stephen Keshi. People in the Glass House were forever scared of him and that is why they had to dilly dally until Mali employed him before they gave the job to Siasia (who is a good coach but definitely not in the class of Stephen Keshi). Ask Westerhof and he will tell you more. I am happy and I thank God that he gave us (Nigerians) such a wonderful gift of Keshi. If you have a tape o f the 1994 team VS CIV, please watch it and tell me if you can compare that team to the present one. I will keep my tongue in check, but all I will say is watch out for Keshi and his boys in the coming WC. A semi final place might just be an assured reality.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have read many headlines and comment since the SE resurgence. Keshi this Kehsi that. Biafra this Biafra that! Keshi proved me right! Keshi would have been sacked. Kehsi threathens to quit! Bla bla bla!
    Common guys, let us drop this success intoxication mentality and allow these guys to concentrate on the Final and their football. I can almost say for sure that only Nigerians would respond this way - too much bad blood, finger pointing and internal wrangling!
    I am almost ashamed to see Nigerians having jibes at themselves even on international blogs and news site and I wonder - what an embarrassment!
    Let us celebrate the moment and look forward to the future with focus and hope. SE won in the cup in 94 but what have we had to endure since then - headaches and heartaches. Its not just about now guys, and only the truly strong retains success. Selah!

    ReplyDelete
  12. The next generation of SE is rightly here that is why i want them to qualify for the confederations cup. That will be another competition to groom them for the world cup qualifies and the World Cup proper.
    The Burkina babes are both fast and strong. I hope we can dictate the midfield and avoid physical contacts. Then go on to keep a clean sheet.

    ReplyDelete
  13. @Chudy, @Ayekooto and @WealthWalkWell: Your respective points are right on the button. Good luck to Keshi and his boys on Sunday.

    ReplyDelete
  14. "It's not yet uhuru. We should build from this huge success into the World Cup preparations. We should continue the build-up as more will be demanded from the team from this stage to next heights," Paul Hamilton

    One cannot but agree with the above assertion. The Super Eagles need to quickly have a short celebration, forget their latest conquest and get back to serious business in other to make it to Brazil next year otherwise the Confederation cup in June MAY just be our own world cup. To say that the world cup qualifiers will be tough will be an understatement as teams will now come very prepared to face us. It will be great for this class of Super Eagles to also emulate the class of 94 by going to the world cup as African champions.

    A word is enough for the wise.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Victor Moses deserved to be the player of the tournament.

    I agree totally with this Super Sports Poll
    Who was your player of the tournament for the Afcon 2013?
    Vincent Enyeama 6%
    John Mikel Obi 16%
    Seydou Keita 14%
    Jonathan Pitroipa22%
    Victor Moses 36%
    Other 6%
    Previous polls506 votes

    ReplyDelete
  16. Nigerian Football team has finest players in the world - http://www.ngr24.com/

    ReplyDelete