Whatever optimism or confidence most Nigerian football fans had in the Super Eagles, going to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, was (slightly) dissipated by the 2-1 loss to England last Saturday at Wembley Stadium.
The managers of the team now know the team, as presently constituted, would fall like a pack of cards in Russia if they display any of that first half showing against Croatia in their opening match, scheduled for June 16.
But the big lesson for Gernot Rohr and the eggheads in the Nigeria Football Federation would be how to ensure the loss does not open a chasm between the players.
The major weapon, as trumpeted by those in the know concerning this Eagles group, is the unity of purpose. Mikel Obi mentioned it in an interview with the Guardian of London just as Tunde Adelakun, Rohr’s close associate explained in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
As an interview with Ogenyi Onazi after the England loss showed, some chasm could be developing. ”Some people cannot be running for the team and some people are just standing, looking and it’s not going to work like that because the other team they are running, everybody is running,” Onazi revealed to Kwese ESPN.
A lot of the blame for the shoddy first half performance was laid at the feet of the Trabzonspor midfielder, who was dispossessed of the ball before England scored their second goal, and frequently failed to find a forward pass when he had some freedom.
”One man less is a huge difference for a team, so everybody has to do this,” said the player, capped by Nigeria 52 times.
Rohr did not point any accusing finger at any specific player during the post-match press conference but inferred that the team had not trained properly in the lead up to the encounter.
”Our first half, perhaps, also the preparation was not so good, yesterday [last Friday] we couldn’t train because it was raining and the pitch was not good enough to make us train.
”We ran around the pitch and two days before we arrived at 3 in the morning after ten hours flight.
”I think in the beginning of the game the players were not ready. Then in the second half, our changes, a lot of lesson for the players today.”
That is what the loss should be – a lesson, not a session in name talking or passing the buck. They have at least 10 days to prepare their game plan for the Croatians.
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