Brazil 2014: Nine things we learnt from the Super Eagles

Olumide Iyanda

Buzz by Olumide Iyanda

Email: Twitter: @mightyng

Chances are that when the history of the 2014 FIFA World Cup is written, more space will be devoted to Germany’s 7-1 destruction of Brazil in the semi-final than to the 1-0 victory over Argentina in the final match. Nothing any other country that took part in the competition suffered comes close to the humiliation handed the host by an efficiently ruthless German machine at Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

Having crashed out at the second round via a 2-0 loss to France, Nigeria was spared the indignity of a calamitous loss to Germany which our dear country would have faced if we had qualified for the quarterfinal. While we testify to the Lord’s goodness for delivering us from the marauding Germans, let us consider these lessons from the Super Eagles’ adventure in Brazil.

1. Good luck is not enough

To be fair, Nigeria’s qualification for the round of 16 was down to luck and favourable result from other matches. After playing a drab barren draw against Iran in their opening Group F match, the Super Eagles bagged its first World Cup win since 1998 with a 1-0 victory over Bosnia Herzegovina. Osaze Odemwingie’s goal was the difference in a match in which an Edin Dzeko goal was incorrectly ruled as offside. The African champions put up a sterling performance against Argentina in their last match, but lost by 3-2. Qualification for the second round came via a favour from Bosnia which defeated Iran 3-1. The deficiencies in the Nigerian team were eventually exploited in the closing stages of the match against France when, shorn of Vincent Enyeama’s heroics, Nigeria conceded two goals – from the head of Paul Pogba and the feet of our own Joseph Yobo.

2. Money can’t buy you victory

A disagreement over bonus money led to Super Eagles players boycotting training on Thursday, June 26. It took the intervention of an embarrassed President Goodluck Jonathan to end the impasse. Sports Minister, Tamuno Danagogo, flew into Braslia to meet the players at their hotel and handed over $3.4 million (about N540 million) in cash, which was shared among the squad. Globacom Chairman, Mike Adenuga, also gave the team a donation of $250,000. The money arrived just in time for Nigeria to crash out of the competition. Some Nigerian players left Brazil N20million richer but they simply could not buy a goal against France.

3. National interest should come before personal glory

A lot was said about the wisdom of picking a tiring Yobo ahead of other defenders in crucial matches, but Coach Stephen Keshi wanted him to make history in the match against France. The 33-year-old ended up making two. He got his 100th international cap and finished his tour of duty in the Super Eagles with an own goal. The weakness in the defence line led by Yobo cost Nigeria a place in the quarterfinal. The Nigerian backline was at sea in Brazil while the captain was sailing towards a personal record appearance with eggs in his face.

4. An Enyeama does not make a team

Super Eagles goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, lived up to his reputation as one of the best in the world with strings of daring saves in all of Nigeria’s matches in Brazil. The Lille FC goal-stopper went to Brazil on the back of his emergence as the best African player in French Ligue 1 for the 2013/2014 season. At a point during the group match between Nigeria and Argentina, Lionel Messi’s face broke into a wide grin. The Argentine wizard paused momentarily and shook the hand of Enyeama in a moment of mutual appreciation. Messi eventually put two goals past him, but like everybody that encountered Enyeama in Brazil, he was left in awe of the man between the sticks for Nigeria. Unfortunately, it was an Enyeama blunder that led to Pogba’s goal for France. He could also have done better in the moments leading to Yobo’s own goal. If only the other players were half as effective as he was.

5. Success takes care of everything

Ahmed Musa was the stone the builders rejected before he put two sublime strikes past Argentina goalkeeper at the Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre in June 25. The 21-year-old CSKA Moscow forward had earned a reputation for being wasteful and unimaginative in previous matches for Nigeria. All that changed when he equalled Messi’s tally of two goals in that Group F encounter. It did not matter that Nigeria lost the match. A backdoor qualification to the next round made Musa a hero. He even got Nollywood’s inflatable doll, Cossy Orjiakor, to take off her clothes in his honour.

6. Maharaj Ji is no football guru

Head of the One Love Family in Ibadan, Oyo State, Sat Guru Maharaj Ji, predicted victory for the Super Eagles ahead of their second round clash with France. He had declared in a statement signed by his Minister for Media Links, Wole Oladapo: “This is, however, the time for the whole world to know and realise the fact that Nigeria is where the light of the world resides. Victory is for Africa.” Apart from abstaining from sex, smoking and drinking, Maharaj Ji had warned the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), the Nigeria Football Supporters’ Club, players and coaching crew to also avoid the colour blue. But how do you avoid the colour blue in a match against a team named Les Bleus?

7. If you must resign, resign well

Like he did after the 2013 Nations Cup victory in South Africa, Stephen Keshi sparked controversy with statements that suggested his time as the Super Eagles coach had come to an end. As it happened the last time, some people are begging him to stay on the job. The truth, however, is that most Nigerians don’t care if he stays or leaves. This is one mind game too many. The threat of resignation as a tool for negotiating higher pay may soon become an own goal.

8. It could have been worse

In all things, give thanks. Going by what Germany did to Brazil, it was probably divine intervention that prevented the Super Eagles from facing Die Mannschaft in the quarterfinals. With all that is presently happening in NFF and FIFA’s ban on Nigeria, a colossal loss to Joachim Low’s boys would have become “a calculated attempt to embarrass the government”.

9. Football is not worth dying for

Some Super Eagles players got N20million from the World Cup campaign. Some Super Eagles fans got hypertension. Nuff said!