Without a doubt, one of the most topical issues in Nigerian football at the moment is the underwhelming performances of the Super Eagles in their most recent 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against the Crocodiles of Lesotho and the Warriors of Zimbabwe.
In the opening group match against Lesotho at home, the Super Eagles who many people now prefer to address as ‘Super Chickens’, had to fight back to draw 1-1 with the lowly rated country. That lethargic performance got tongues wagging as many Nigerians who had expected a whitewash of the ‘minnows’ descended on the Super Eagles.
Three days after, Nigerian football fans had another bitter pill forced down their throats as their expectation that the Super Eagles would make amends in the next match against the Warriors of Zimbabwe was dashed again completely. It was another tame draw. Just as in the first match against Lesotho, the Eagles had to come from behind to pick a point.
To make matters worse, Nigeria’s arch rivals, the Bafana Bafana of South Africa started their campaign on a winning note at home against Benin Republic. The Southern African country edged Nigeria’s neighbours 2-0 to initially take command of Group C which also includes Rwanda.
At the moment, Nigerians are angry with the Super Eagles and such anger is not misplaced or unfounded. Of course, as passionate football fans who like to invest so much time and emotions into the team, Nigerians do not deserve another heartbreak from the team. Those who are calling for the head of the coach and his players are yet to get over the shock of the 2022 FIFA World Cup mishap. When the Eagles failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, it was a major sporting disaster that drained many people emotionally. Therefore, such people never imagined that the Super Eagles would attempt to toy with their emotions so soon.
However, just after two matches into another qualifying campaign, Nigerians have so many reasons to worry about the chances of their team to make it to the next World Cup. Already, the permutations have started again. Even though before the race to the 2026 World Cup started, all eyes were on Nigeria and Africa but what has played out so far is entirely different. Rwanda who stunned South Africa 2-0 at home are currently leading the group. They are on four points and are being chased by South Africa who are in second position while the almighty Super Eagles are trailing in third position with two points from a possible six points.
Therefore, those who were quick to hand the group to either South Africa or Nigeria soon after the draws were made should have a rethink immediately. It is not going to be a stroll in the park for the favourites as their group opponents who are yet to taste World Cup action must be doing everything possible to break the jinx. Moreover, when pitched against bigger opponents, the smaller teams always go the extra-mile to cause an upset. So, it is the Super Eagles and the Bafana Bafana who should be wary of their less endowed opponents.
It is against this background that Nigerians who know the capacity of the Super Eagles to disappoint them are yelling on top of their voices that another disaster is looming. Those who are still angry over the Eagles failure in 2022 have since called for a complete overhauling of the team. They want the Portuguese coach, Jose Peseiro and the present Eagles to be shown the exit door. However, some are of the opinion that throwing away the baby with the bathing water at this point in time will be more costly. Therefore, they want only those basic changes that would lift the Super Eagles in their remaining eight matches.
For many of us, the players are not totally useless but they are like sheep without a shepherd. If a medical doctor suddenly abandons his stethoscope to fly a Boeing 737-800 aircraft, there is bound to be disaster in the air. One can only offer what he has. It is an open secret that Peseiro right from day one has displayed lack of capacity to lead the Super Eagles. Surprisingly, he is the man the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), both present and past, feels is the one who will lead the team to the Promised Land. It is not working but many of them seem not to know that the coach is a serial failure. The NFF is presently stuck with the journey man as how to pay him off has become a major problem. Only recently, a colleague of mine jokingly suggested that Nigerians should donate money for Peseiro to be paid off. Many of us can’t wait to see his back.
However, even if the coach finally leaves, the problem will persist if there is no players’ change of attitude towards national team assignments. The players are oftentimes as unserious minded as their coach. Most of them don’t know what it means to put on the green white green jerseys. Since they know they can stray into camp and pick shirts, they don’t really care. Once they are invited, the players come to while away time for the international break to be over. It is doubtful, if they are ready to spill blood for the team to win.
Therefore, if Peseiro finally leaves, whoever will take over from him should be bold enough to throw the camp open for all Nigerian players who are based at home or abroad. The clamour for the home-based players to be injected into the national team has refused to die down so it is high time someone listened to the clarion call. If that is done, those foreign based players who have this annoying sense of entitlement will sit up because they won’t like to lose their positions to the local boys.
And I can’t conclude this piece without stating emphatically that the Super Eagles need another goalkeeper. If Francis Uzoho is maintained as the team’s number one keeper, Nigerians should forget about the 2026 World Cup ticket. It may not happen because teams succeed or win crucial matches when they have in their squads reliable and dependable goalkeepers. Of course, Lionel Messi inspired Argentina at Qatar 2022 but Emiliano Martinze’s heroics in goal contributed significantly to the victory. Without a doubt, his huge last-minute save to deny Randal Kolo Muani kept Argentina in the finals before the eventual triumph over France on penalties.
So, the Super Eagles are already walking a tight rope but if those in charge of the team are patriotic and courageous enough to make the necessary changes, they will get their campaign back on track. Personally, I have not given up on the Eagles but I am not expecting anything from them. Blessed are those who don’t expect, for they will not be disappointed.