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‘Let’s do it again’ is Super Eagles’ slogan; but can they really do it?

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

It is days to the kick-off of Nigeria’s opening match of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. The team, as stated by the NFF, has adopted  ‘Let’s do it again’ as their mantra.

It is believed that the Super Eagles are eager to replicate the team spirit exhibited 10 years ago when against public perception, they defied all odds to win the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.

The mixture of home boys with some experienced players under a focussed coach performed that magic. The scenario is far different from the present.

The signals are loud and clear. It is only there for perspective observers to decode. For a championship holding in Cote d’Ivoire which has a relatively the same weather condition like Nigeria, the Super Eagles, most of which players are currently under winter condition in Europe, will be camped in Abu Dhabi from January 3.

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What is the objective? One does not need to undergo rigorous geography lesson to imagine what the weather will be in the United Arab Emirate city.

A simple check on the internet will reveal that January in Abu Dhabi is the coolest month of the year. Because of the pleasant temperatures, this is a busy month for tourism in the city. January is a great time to check out the fossil dunes in the desert of Al Wathba.

In contrast, Abidjan, the theatre of Nigeria’s group matches the average temperature in January for a typical day ranges from a high of 89°F (31°C) to a low of 76°F (24°C).

 

While should a team dreaming to regain old glory spend scarce resources to fly their players from different parts of Europe, first to the Middle East, and then to Nigeria before travelling to Cote d’Ivoire?

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It was a similar lack of Geography lesson that made the NFF camp the Super Eagles in the United Kingdom while preparing for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

A secondary school geography student will know that in the Southern Hemisphere where South Africa belongs, the weather condition is direct opposite of what is obtained in the north of the equator.

Thus, June-July is the height of winter condition South Africa whereas it would be summer in most parts of southern Europe, including the UK.

England and other European teams left their countries and moved northwards where the climates are generally cold.

The Super Eagles trained under warm summer conditions in the UK before flying to the winter situation in South Africa where their first two matches were to be under severe winter conditions, especially at Bloemfontein.

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Only their third match was to be in Durban which enjoys an all season summer condition. Yet, the Super Eagles set their camp in Durban.

If they had survived the last group match against Korea Republic, they would had to have their Round of 16 match in the colds of Johannesburg/Pretoria.

The team officials failed the geography lesson. Yet that was not the first instance.

In the build-up to the final qualification for the 1982 World Cup in which Nigeria had Algeria to contend with, the then Green Eagles went on playing and training tour of coldest regions of Europe in UK, Norway and Iceland for a match in hot weathered Lagos. Off course, the result was a foregone conclusion.

Nigeria crashed 2-0 at home to trigger the inability to qualify for the World Cup.

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The Super Eagles appear on that same path. Even as squad sizes are now being cut to the 27, Nigeria still have 41 and there seems to be difficulties in pruning to the required figure.

In the preliminary list is Ahmed Musa. From body languages being read, he will most likely make the final list, although, he may just have cameo appearances in the group matches.

Of what value is the inclusion of a player that is surplus to requirement?

The argument will be the influence he wields in the team. He may as well make the Nigerian contingent as a back-room staff without being in the squad.

We can only think of an encore of AFCON 2013 if the NFF re-evaluates the strategies for Cote d’Ivoire 2023. Those who have ears, let them hear!

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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.