The Nigeria national football team is not at the height many want it to be and is barely a force to reckon with in Africa and the world.
Finishing the year in 66th position on the FIFA rankings after starting in 43rd in January, the Super Eagles are outside the top ten teams in Africa. This is worrisome for many fans especially when one recalls that Nigeria was once ranked 5th best football playing country in the world.
The disappointments of 2014 spilled to 2015 for Nigeria as the curtain raiser for the year, the Africa Cup of Nations, could only be watched on TV as the Eagles failed to qualify for the biennial football showpiece.
The absence of the then defending champions paved way for the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire who defeated Ghana 9-8 on penalties to lift the trophy for the second time on February 8.
Having failed to qualify for AFCON, erstwhile manager, Stephen Keshi, was kicked out and the first set of friendly then said to be targeted at rebuilding the Eagles was handled by Coach Daniel Amokachi.
The short stint enjoyed by ‘The Bull’ did not serve anything to cheer as the Eagles lost by a lone goal first to the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire and then shockingly to the Cranes of Uganda on home turf at the Akwa Ibom Stadium, Uyo.
Though there was a face-saving 1-1 draw recorded away in South Africa, minds were already made up that Amokachi was not the messiah needed for the revival of Nigeria football.
After a lot of power play and intense lobbying, the ‘Big Boss’ Keshi was back in the saddle but not for too long as he saw his contract terminated despite starting the AFCON qualifying series with a 2-0 win over Chad in Kaduna.
Keshi was nailed by the NFF for supposedly applying for the then vacant job Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire, a move they said bellies his loyalty to the Nigerian job.
In what looked like an already predetermined act, the NFF was quick to name another ex-international cum former Super Eagles captain, Sunday Oliseh, to take over the reins of leadership.
Expectations were high, but recording a barren draw in his first official game away to Tanzania in the AFCON qualifying series saw many having a rethink.
A morale boosting 2-0 win was to be recorded days after over Niger in a friendly played in Port Harcourt which at least calmed frail nerves of supporters already labelling Oliseh as a wrong choice for the Eagles chiefly because he has no experience on the job.
The fears of many on Oliseh especially as it concerns his man management skills came to fore during the preparations for the next set of games for the Eagles in Belgium.
The skipper of the team, Vincent Enyeama, was unavailable for the first set of games under Oliseh due to the death of his mother. After the burial of his deceased parent, Enyeama had an altercation with his coach,allegedly questioning the rationale behind Oliseh stripping him and sticking with Ahmed Musa as Eagles’ captain despite his return and ahead of more senior players like Mikel Obi in the squad.
The spat escalated quickly and dominated discussions for days, eventually leading to Enyeama’s premature retirement from the Super Eagles.
With Nigerians still coming to terms with Enyeama’s retirement from international football via Instagram, Fenerbache loanee, Emmanuel Emenike, also quit; citing unfavourable conditions in the new-look Super Eagles set up.
Back to the pitch, Oliseh tasted defeat for the first time on the job as Eagles Coach as his team were beaten 2-0 by Dr Congo.
However, the Eagles bounced back nicely; taming the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in a 3-0 win.
From then, attention was shifted to the Home-based Eagles who were seeking qualification for the 2016 CHAN tournament to be staged in Rwanda.
The team earned qualification beating their West African neighbours 2-0 over two legs.
Nigeria ended the year with the progress made in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers but that in itself is laced with mixed feelings.
Playing against a ‘tiny’ country like Swaziland which were about 100 places below Nigeria on the FIFA rankings, the expectation was for a crushing victory for the Eagles.
That, however, was not the case as the Eagles barley escaped defeat in the first leg away from home before struggling to a 2-0 victory at home days later.
In all, it has not been a bad year for the national team, but as earlier stated the Nigerian team have been all but Super but gradually getting back to their strides.
With crucial qualifying games dominating 2016 as well as the CHAN tournament on the cards, many hope the Eagles will make good use of their wings to soar and not crawl in the fast approaching New Year.
Results for 2015
Sun 11/01/15 FRI Nigeria 0 – 1 Côte d’Ivoire
Wed 25/03/15 FRI Nigeria 0 – 1 Uganda
Sun 29/03/15 FRI South Africa 1 – 1 Nigeria
Sat 13/06/15 ACO Nigeria 2 – 0 Chad
Sat 05/09/15 ACO Tanzania 0 – 0 Nigeria
Tue 08/09/15 FRI Nigeria 2 – 0 Niger
Thu 08/10/15 FRI Nigeria 0 – 2 Congo DR
Sun 11/10/15 FRI Nigeria 3 – 0 Cameroon
Sat 17/10/15 ANC Nigeria 2 – 0 Burkina Faso
Sun 25/10/15 ANC Burkina Faso 0 – 0 Nigeria
Fri 13/11/15 WQA Swaziland 0 – 0 Nigeria
Tue 17/11/15 WQA Nigeria 2 – 0 Swaziland
ACO: Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers
ANC: CHAN qualifiers
WQA: World qualifiers(Africa)