The Super Eagles and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) have come under scathing attacks by enthusiastic Nigerian football fans who have continued to express shock and disappointment over Thursday’s embarrassing 1-0 defeat inflicted on the three-time African champions by lowly rated the Central Africa Republic (CAR) in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying match played at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, in Lagos.
Although they were the underdogs in the contest, the Wild Beasts as the Central Africa Republic senior national football team is called delivered the sucker punch at the death when Karl Namnganda profited from a terrible defensive mix-up between the ‘Oyibo wall’, Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong, to fire past a hapless Francis Uzoho in goal for the Super Eagles.
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After the rude awakening, the Super Eagles hoofed and puffed to no avail as they couldn’t make their dominance of proceedings count against their less fancied opponents who held firmly to their goal for the shocking victory.
To many Nigerians, CAR are ‘unknown’ but those who have followed them know that they are a team on ascendency and must be taken seriously. It is on record that between 2010 to 2021, they successfully moved from 202 in FIFA ranking to 124th in the world. In addition, they shocked Algeria 2-0 at home in the 2012 AFCON qualifiers. They also won their first World Cup qualifying match at home in 2012 against Botswana. Maybe, the Super Eagles were unaware of the threat posed by the Central Africans.
Thursday’s defeat for the Super Eagles is actually their first in 40 years. Their last home loss in a World Cup qualifying match was on October 10, 1981 against Algeria at the National stadium Surulere in Lagos.
The anger and disappointment of most Nigerians following the loss to the Wild Beasts is not unfounded. Although the Super Eagles are currently without some of their key players like Wilfred Ndidi, Peter Oghenekaro Etebo, Alex Iwobi and Samuel Chukwueze, the team still boasts of experienced players who could have done the job because there is a yawning gap in quality between the two Qatar 2022 Group C opponents.
Apart from that, the Central Africa Republic team is 90 places behind Nigeria in the current FIFA ranking as they are ranked 124 in the world. In addition, Central Africa Republic are playing their home matches in Douala, Cameroon not because of the ravaging COVID-19 or any political crisis but the absence of a FIFA approved stadium in Bangui.
However, in place of enviable FIFA ranking and a world class home ground, the Central Africa Republic national team has hunger and determination which they effectively put to good use against their more illustrious opponents.
This was aptly captured in the post-match interview granted by the victorious coach, Raoul Savoy when he said his boys showed the right fighting spirit against the Super Eagles who didn’t see the need to accord them the necessary respect.
“Nigeria is one of the best teams in Africa but sometimes in football, you don’t take the game seriously because you feel at the beginning you have already won. I feel the Eagles said ‘we are going to take the three points and focus on other things,” he said
Not many Nigerian football fans would fault Savoy’s verdict on the Super Eagles because overtime, the once dreaded team that sent shivers down the spines of opponents is on a steady decline. At the last AFCON in Egypt, the Super Eagles lost 0-2 to Madagascar and returned home to force Sierra Leone to a 4-4 draw in Lagos.
Consequently, Thursday’s loss to CAR only rubbed salt into the wounds of Nigerian football fans who have been left with no option than to descend on the team as they vehemently criticized the players for not showing enough determination and hunger and Coach Gernot Rohr for what most of them consider to be technical naivety.
A former Super Eagles player, Bolaji Douglas said “First it was Sierra Leone who held us spellbound as they pumped 4 goals into our net right on our home soil. The cry of abomination filled the air. No one was sure who to hold responsible, the players playing at the highest level of the game or the coach.
“Today (Thursday) was even worse. Losing at home to CAR? Okay we are truly now at end times. What is going on with Nigerian football? With due respect to CAR, we should be scoring against them with ease. God has blessed us with all the talents to do it,” said the former BCC Lions captain.
On his part, a seasoned sports journalist and former Chairman of the Ogun State chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Bidoun Alabi, said CAR’s victory over the Super Eagles is a feat for which they should be handed the World Cup trophy.
He also lamented that the new generation Super Eagles appear to be classless and clueless for they have repeatedly failed to replicate the indomitable spirit exhibited by their predecessors.
“I have read comments about the Eagles’ loss to C.A.R being put on the shoulders of coach Gernot Rohr. As much as I note this, I equally argue strongly that the Eagles of today have no class. I don’t see their character. They are tragically unreliable.
“In football, there are bad days, but when bad days begin to dent a fine history and pedigree of a team, the need to declare a state of emergency becomes imperative,” said Biodun.
Another veteran sports journalist, Patrick Andrew, wondered what is the bond between the NFF and the Super Eagles technical adviser that they won’t ask him to make way for a more technically competent coach to handle the national team.
He said “One wonders what Amaju and this trite coach have agreed on or why this country continues to pamper what isn’t adding value to the Super Eagles.
“In other climes, the ‘handicap carpenter’ would have been shown the exit minutes after the match and right from the stadium. It’s high time Nigerians rose against further plunge to the cesspool of ignominy.”
However, a member of the NFF Executive Committee and Chairman of Borno State FA, Alhaji Babagana Kalli, said he was not happy with the result of the match but he isn’t disappointed in the team.
He said it was only a bad day for the Super Eagles who dominated their opponents but were not lucky to convert the numerous chances that came their way.
“I am not happy but I don’t believe in throwing away the baby with the bathing water. I know 99% of Nigerians believed the Super Eagles would beat CAR but it didn’t happen because it wasn’t their day.
“God had destined that they would lose the match so there was nothing anyone could do about it. The Super Eagles will go back to the drawing board and atone for the defeat on Sunday,” he assured.
In the same vein, a former international and Coordinator of the Super Eagles, Patrick Pascal said despite the loss, the team will be in Cameroon with a positive mind because everybody had put behind the mishap in Lagos.
“It wasn’t our day. Football is highly unpredictable. In football, 2+2 can give you 30 as an answer. We dominated every area of the game but they had only two opportunities which they took one and that was all.
“The defeat is not the end of the world. We are going to Cameroon with a positive mindset and I believe the Super Eagles will get back their pound of flesh from the Central Africa Republic,” said the Chairman of Bauchi State Football Association.
It is on this note that the Super Eagles will attempt to fire on all cylinders in Douala on Sunday, October 10 in the return leg of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against the Wild Beasts of the Central Africa Republic.