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Back to the drawing board after 2017 AFCON fiasco

The pain of most Nigerian football fans at the moment is not the lingering fuel scarcity but the failure of the Super Eagles to qualify…

The pain of most Nigerian football fans at the moment is not the lingering fuel scarcity but the failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon.
Although the qualifiers are not yet completed, mathematically, the Super Eagles have again missed out on the AFCON tournament that that they last won in a grand style in 2013 in South Africa under Coach Stephen Keshi.
After winning the second leg of the AFCON 2017 double header 1-0 on Tuesday in Alexandria, the Pharaohs now have seven points while the Super Eagles have a paltry three points from the same number of matches.
The implication is that following the sudden withdrawal of Chad from the qualifiers, even if the Eagles beat Tanzania by a million goals, they will not rise above six points and even if Tanzania with just one point beat Egypt by one million goals, they won’t be able to stop the Egyptians from going to vie for their 8th AFCON title in Gabon.
So once again, it is the end of the road for the Super Eagles who have now failed thrice in the last four editions of the prestigious tournament. However, the latest failure makes it two consecutive times the Eagles will be missing Africa’s most prestigious football championship.
It will be recalled that in 2011, the Eagles under Coach Samson Siasia failed to qualify for Gabon/Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, the man who had just won the third title for Nigeria, Stephen Keshi was at the helm of affairs when the Eagles failed to qualify to defend their title in Equatorial Guinea in 2015. The third failure is the one that has just been recorded.
Consequently, Nigerians are ‘wailing’ seriously but as usual the Nigerian Football federation has promised to go back to the drawing board. This has become the tradition each time the team fails to fly.
Addressing the press in Abuja few hours after the Super Eagles lost the make or mar match against Egypt, the NFF president Amaju Pinnick apologised to Nigerians and promised to ensure that such disaster is not recorded again.
He went on to pass a vote of confidence on the Super Eagles coaching crew led by Dream Team VI Coach, Samson Siasia. He said the coaches, Siasia, Yusuf, Amuneke and Agu as well as the players did their best but luck did not smile at them.
Although the NFF president did not disclose how his federation intends to move the Super Eagles out of the woods, he said his board would meet with the sports minister on Tuesday to discuss the way forward.
Despite his assurances, most Nigerians took in his words with a pinch of salt. And such pessimism is not unfounded because Nigerians have got used to such ‘sugar-coated’ promises.
Even as Nigerian football fans doubt the ability of Pinnick and his board to proffer solutions to Super Eagles recent failures, they definitely have seen positives in this Siasia’s Eagles.
Such Nigerians have praised the performance of the Eagles against the Pharaohs of Egypt saying there are signs of improvement and if sustained, more football disasters could be avoided in future.
Former Super Eagles star, Moses Kpakor while speaking to SHOT! said he was so much satisfied with the performance of the Eagles under Samson Siasia.
He said even as he had few days to prepare the team following the unceremonious exit of the former coach Sunday Oliseh, Siasia was able to raise one of the best Super Eagles squads.
Kpakor, therefore, advised the NFF to keep the present crop of players under the tutelage of Siasia and qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup would not be a problem.
““Although the Eagles failed to qualify for the 2017 AFCON, I want to tell you that I was very happy with the way the team played.
“I was happy with the way they built their attack right from the rear. No Super Eagles squad has played this kind of football.
“I attribute the Eagles performance to Samson Siasia and want him to stay with the team. If the NFF allows Siasia to continue with the present players, it would not be impossible for Eagles to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
“We must not just throw away the positives simply because the team did not qualify for the Nations Cup. It won’t be in the interest of our football,” he opined.
However, former Super Eagles Co-ordinator Emmanuel Attah feels strongly that Amaju Pinnick is not the right man to lead the search for revival of the Super Eagles.
He told SHOT! that instead of making ‘empty promises’, Pinnick should just resign since he has demonstrated lack of capacity to lead Nigerian football out of the doldrums.
“I want to join other Nigerians in calling on Amaju Pinnick to resign. He should not wait for anybody to tell him to leave.
“He has demonstrated lack of ability to lead Nigerian football. When he went for Oliseh, the whole country rose against that decision but he did not listen.
“I want him to take full responsibility for what has happened. The only thing that will pacify angry Nigerians is for him to resign,” he said
Although most Nigerians have continued to call for his resignation, the NFF president said unequivocally that he has a mandate to preside over Nigerian football for four years so anybody asking him to resign is being unfair to him.
As it is, Pinnick and his board are not thinking of leaving the glasshouse as they are busy scouting around for an expatriate coach to handle the Super Eagles.
This is certainly one of the giant steps towards the drawing board as promised by the NFF president. Pinnick believes the solution lies in hiring a foreign coach for the Eagles.
However, Kpakor feels differently as he argued that getting a foreign coach for the Super Eagles is not the solution.
He insisted that recent experiments with foreign coaches beginning from 1998 with Bora Milutinovic did not help the national team.
“I totally disagree with Pinnick on the position that only foreign coaches are good enough for the Super Eagles.
“Let him bring the foreign coach for us to see the difference that would make. Have we not tried foreign coaches in the past? What was the result?.
“From Bora Milutinovic to Lars Lagerbeck, what did we get?. Personally, I feel that if given the necessary support, Siasia would raise a formidable team for Nigeria. It must not be a foreign coach,” he insisted.
Whether foreign coach or indigenous coach, Nigeria have the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers to prosecute using most of these players who have failed to qualify for the 2017 AFCON.
Nigerians will therefore have to wait for Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers to resume for them to see the effectiveness or otherwise of the latest trip to the drawing board.

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