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The beginning of the end of 2026 World Cup dream

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

While some other contending teams are asserting their status and having goal feast and harvest of points, the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles are demonstrating what they are best known for – Consistently Inconsistent – apologies to the late Professor Ayodele Awojobi.

 

Cote d’Ivoire Nigeria’s main group opponents in the forth coming Africa Cup of Nations spoke loud and clear as they demolished Seychelles 9-0 in their World Cup qualifiers. Egypt dismantled Djibouti 6-0. Tunisia hammered Sao Tome &Principe 4-0, the same result Senegal had over South Sudan.

Those big teams did not leave anything to chances. The big scores will later count in their favour if their is need for tie-breaker.

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Nigeria’s Super Eagles only laboured to 1-1 draw in their two opening matches against lower ranked teams – Lesotho and Zimbabwe. Their World Cup qualifying hopes are thus put on life support.

It has been a disaster that had waited to happen. Since José Vítor dos Santos Peseiro, the Portuguese journeyman took over, his only emphatic success had been in encounters with Sao Tome & Principe, the 50th  ranked among CAF’s 53 affiliates.

Against other teams, even lower ranked ones, it had been very arduous. The once glamorous African team has turned a laborious side under Peseiro.

Consider Africa’s 26th ranked  Guinea-Bissau beating Nigeria at home. Peseiro’s laborious outfit had to depend on the lottery of penalty kick to be back on track for Africa Cup of Nations qualification.

It was almost an horror outsmarting Sierra Leone in the two legged encounters of the Afcon qualifiers. Whatever the outcome of South Africa’s second match, Nigeria will certainly be trailing Bafana Bafana  when both clash in Matchday 3 next year.

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The unfolding results is not only an indicative of what to expect at the end of the 10-match series of the World Cup qualifiers, it is an harbinger to what will happen in January at the Africa Cup of Nations.

If the Super Eagles cannot beat lowly rated Lesotho and Zimbabwe, what is the expectation in the duel with giants, Cote d’Ivoire on their home soil? It was a struggle aided by the lottery of penalty kick against Equatorial Guinea last March.

Shall we expect another penalty to upstage  Guinea-Bissau when they face the Super Eagles on Monday January 22?

It will be double jeopardy for Jose Peseiro to continue to handle the Super Eagles. His appointment should be terminated immediately, no matter the repercussion.

Why is it that clubs and national teams find it easy to sack coaches and managers, but it turned to a Greek puzzle if Nigeria were to do the same?

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It is well known for a long time that goalkeeping is the major problem afflicting our national team.

Logically, you expect a reasoning coach to experiment with all his invited three goalkeepers in the two-match 180 minute friendly matches.

But as if afflicted with myopic reasoning, Peseiro insisted on off-form and possibly ageing Francis Uzoho who in seven consecutive matches has now conceded seven goals.

One of the most damaging ones was the 30 yard freekick that the goalkeeper ought to have seen the ball sailing from afar.

 

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Undoubtedly, Uzoho’s psyche is damaged and is not psychologically tuned to be first choice goalkeeper. He needs to be rested while Peseiro needs a red card.

With two points from obtainable six, and with prospects of South Africa getting the maximum before facing the Super Eagles next year, we need to act fast.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

World Cup

Can of worms discovered in Super Eagles camp

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA

All is not well at the moment with the Nigeria’s Super Eagles who have gone seven World Cup qualifying matches since November 2021 without a win.

The dwindled fortunes contrast sharply for a team noted before now as the African sides with the longest unbeaten streak in the World Cup qualifiers. At time, they were unbeaten since losing through a late goal to Angola in Luanda on 20 June 2004 till 10 November 2017 when their 1-1 draw with Algeria was converted to a 3-0 forfeiture owing to NFF featuring an unqualified player. At  the time, Super Eagles had raked 35 unbeaten run. At another time from 2012 to 2013, the team had an unbeaten run of 18 matches from 3 June 2012  when they beat Namibia 1-0 in Calabar to 21 June 2013 when they were beaten 2-1 by Uruguay in a FIFA Confederations match in Brazil.

 Yet the same outfit has turned laborious after losing its flairs. A source close to Finidi George told Sports Village Square that the coach complained that the NFF just heaped all the blames of the team’s current precarious situation on him while exonerating the players.  

  He also reportedly remarked that the NFF did nothing to mobilise crowd support for the Super Eagles in the back-breaking encounter with Benin Republic in Abidjan despite the presence of large Nigerian community in the Ivorian commercial capital city.

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 A Benin Republic sports journalist confirmed this to Sports Village Square. The journalist remarked that it was true that there “were not many Nigerians at the Félix Houphouet Boigny stadium even though Nigeria has a strong community in the Ivory Coast.  I see that the defeat against the Republic of Benin really hurts.”

  Dr. Rafiu Ladipo, the President General of the Nigeria Football and other Sports Supporters’ Club (NFSP) had earlier made the same assertion on the neglect of crowd mobilisation for the Super Eagles and that those who made it to Uyo and had auto accident on their way back were not even given a mention by the NFF.

 He had since 1991 established the first of the international cells of the supporters club. They were not mobilised for the game against Benin Republic.

 On players attitude, a member of the NFF confirmed that the Super Eagles camp in Uyo was loose as players went to camp with their girl friends.

 That could also explain their dismal forms in the back-to-back destiny shaping encounters with South Africa and Benin Republic.

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World Cup

BREAKING! Finidi George formally resigns

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

Nigeria Super Eagles’ coach, Finidi George has resigned from his post as Super Eagles’ coach, two days after the Nigeria Football Federation announced it was going to employ a foreign technical adviser.

A source close to Finidi told Sports Village Square that Finidi sent his resignation letter to Ibrahim Gusau “3o minutes ago.”

 Finidi was said to be livid that the NFF leadership met with the sports minister two days ago, but failed to mention that players reported late to the camp and that they didi nothing to mobilise Nigerians in Cote d’Ivoire to come out to support the Super Eagles in last Monday’s match with Benin Republic.

“He complained that the NFF heaped all the blames on him”, said the source.

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  Calls to NFF officials to verify the information were not answered.  

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World Cup

UPDATE: NFF may spare Finidi George

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Under fire Super Eagles’ coach, Finidi George may excape sack afterall. A source close to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) told Sports Village Square that Finidi may not be sacked.

 He would however work under the foreign technical adviser that the football governing body is planning to hire in the next few weeks.

  The source who was privy to the Wednesday’s ‘hybrid mode’ meeting of the NFF informed that Finidi George will be designated as ‘Chief Coach’ while the expatriate will be the technical adviser.

It is however unclear how the NFF will foot the wage bill of the technical adviser, who may also come with his personal crew as Finidi George  also already have his own foreign assistants.

There is also no word on the loud absence of Daniel Amokachi who was designated as Finidi George’s assistant, but failed to show up at the Super Eagles’ camp leading to the ill-fated World Cup match day 3 and 4 encounters with South Africa and Benin Republic.  

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