The Nigerian football landscape took a different dimension on July 15, 2015 when Sunday Oliseh was appointed coach of the Super Eagles, replacing another ex-skipper, Stephen Keshi.
Described as the second most difficult job in Nigeria after that of the president, Oliseh has successfully overseen eight games since he assumed his new role.
In those games, he recorded 4 wins, 3 draws and 1 defeat scoring nine goals and conceding just two. Despite this impressive record, he has been the subject of criticism from many stakeholders.
We review Oliseh’s first five months in charge, highlighting the good, the not so good and his ugly achievements in this period.
Oliseh’s reign as Nigeria coach has seen the tactician win all three home games against Niger Republic, Burkina Faso and Swaziland – signifying a 100 % home record, a total shift from the past.
In crucial away qualifiers against Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Swaziland, the team held their own picking up draws on the road. While in two international friendly games, the team fell to Congo DR 2-0 and walloped the Indomitable Lions 3-0.
“One would think prior to taking charge of the Super Eagles, Nigeria were winning every game and playing champagne football,” Oliseh wrote in his personal blog.
“The truth is the total opposite though as we only recorded one victory in five games, including a home defeat to Uganda, and were absent from the 2015 Afcon.”
Secondly, the team is beginning to find an identity – built around new skipper Ahmed Musa, it thrives on playing a high backline while pressing its opponent.
Also, selection of players to the national team has been purely based on form, desire and hunger.
Forgotten players like Obafemi Martins, Haruna Lukman, Anthony Ujah and Rabiu Ibrahim have all been given an international lifeline following their invitation to the team after a long exile.
The likes of Carl Ikeme, Moses Simon, Sylvester Igboun, Shehu Abdulahi, Chima Akas and Paul Onobi are now regulars under Oliseh who believes “that were not the case in the recent past”.
The not so good
Since the coming of the former Ajax midfielder, the rankings have gotten terribly awful for the three-time African champions.
From 57th in the world and 6th in Africa, the team is now ranked 59th in the world and 12th in Africa.
“I can’t worry about what I can’t control. I can’t be held responsible for the Eagles lowly ranking,” Oliseh said before Nigeria’s goal-less draw in Swaziland.
Though not totally his fault, the coach must find a way of improving his team’s placement on the standings – considering it’s the only criteria used in the draws for the group phase of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
One ugly trend that has surfaced since the arrival of Oliseh is that of veterans bringing an abrupt end to their careers. First it was ex-skipper, Vincent Enyeama, then Emmanuel Emenike followed suit.
The coach to a large extent had a large role in their decisions and has so far been unable to integrate the older players into his team.
If this isn’t checked, more could likely follow suit.