NIGERIA is drawn alongside Zambia, Cameroon and Algeria in its quest to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and mixed feelings are being expressed as to the possible fate of the Super Eagles after the qualifying series. NURUDEEN ALIMI in this piece, reports the submissions of football stakeholders who assessed the chances of the Super Eagles in making their sixth World Cup appearance.
An average Nigerian football follower believes the Super Eagles are in a ‘group of death’ given the pedigree of their opponents.
In fact, many football stakeholders believe Nigeria needs a miracle to qualify for the global fiesta based on the challenges facing the team at the moment.
Part of it is not having a substantive coach for the Super Eagles three months to the team’s campaign for qualification.
Former international, Tijani Babangida, after the draw was released in Egypt, said Nigeria needs a miracle to land the Russia 2018 ticket.
“The worse happened already after we were not seeded. And now with Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia in our group, only a miracle could take us out of this group. Let’s be realistic though we also know that anything is possible in football.
“Other nations are 100 per cent ready for the qualifiers, while we are still not certain who our coach will be,” said Babangida, who featured at the 1998 World Cup and was recently a special assistant to former Nigeria coach, Sunday Oliseh.
But to chief Adegboye Onigbinde, a former Nigeria coach, it depends on the preparation by the Super Eagles saying every team stands an equal chance.
“In my coaching career, I’ve never bothered about who I’m playing; I’ve never believed in the group of death. We all qualified to be there to play at that level. What we should concentrate on is building a strong team. This should include appointing a substantive coach for the team; this idea of an acting coach should stop if we want to be serious. All I care for is to ensure that the team is adequately prepared for the qualifiers,” the former technical director of Trinidad and Tobago said.
Ex-international, Felix Owolabi (MON), while speaking with Tribunesport emphasised the need for the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to hire a competent coach to handle the Eagles to start with.
“One thing that is very paramount is that the NFF should be able to get a very successful and reputable coach with a little bit of African culture. The coach should be able to know a little bit of African football.
“If the NFF feels hiring a foreign coach for the Super Eagles is the only way to secure the World Cup ticket, so be it. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t see any Nigerian coach that can take us to the promised land at least for now. It is not out of play to ask the NFF to hire a foreign coach and I will tell you the reason.
“The coach to be hired must be very versatile, he must be technically and tactically sound. I have discovered over the years why we have not been able to reach the quarter-final (World Cup) is because most of our coaches lack the tactical acumen to take our boys through.
“At the beginning of any competition, it is the brilliance of our players that always give us a reason to smile, but when we get to the knockout stages where we will need the expertise of our coaches, we will fumble. So I am in total support of a foreign coach for the Eagles for now, because time is not on our side. We all know that our first qualifier will hold in October this year. We must have a sound coach who is very successful who has good record and influential so he that he can have absolute control of these players,” said the Shooting Stars legend.
Owolabi, a member of the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) winning Green Eagles, however, suggested that the Eagles should be built round domestic players.
“Greater percentage of the players that will constitute the team must be from the local league. Just like what Stephen Keshi did, I believe if all these things are strictly adhered to, Nigeria will definitely be at the 2018 World Cup,” he added.
However, another ex-international, Idowu Otubusen, prefers a local coach for the Eagles
“To me, Nigeria should not be in a position to be afraid of any country because of the potential that we are blessed with. The only problem is that we are not always serious with whatever we do. We do not start preparation in time for any major competition.
“And after crashing out in maybe the quarter-final or semi-final, people will start saying that preparation for the next competition should start immediately. But that is a lie. On the issue of a foreign coach, I do not think that should affect our preparation because we have a lot of good coaches in this country who can take the Super Eagles to any length. But our quest for a foreign coach is so much that it is affecting us. We have a name, We are giants of Africa, it is only now that things are now going as expected again that we are apprehensive.
“So, I do not believe that a group should be tagged a group of death. It depends on the team’s level of confidence and preparation. All a team needs is to beat its chest that it is going to qualify and that will be all. But our problem is lack of adequate preparation, we have qualified coaches, why don’t we use our indigenous coaches? We have them all over the places, are they trying to tell us that nothing is happening in Nigeria as far as coaching is concerned?
“Let me also confess to you that we can not get the best foreign coach, he will just come like others to collect money and go. So, I strongly believe if we can do with our local coaches and home-based players, Nigeria will qualify for the 2018 World Cup,” said the former Shooting Stars defender.