By Toby Prince
With all the buzz surrounding Vincent Enyeama’s retirement from international football, the Super Eagles finally took to the field to face the Leopards of DR Congo in an international friendly on Thursday in Belgium – putting behind a torrid stint.
Goals from Dieumerci Mbokani and Jordan Nkolo inflicted a first defeat on coach Sunday Oliseh – indicating an end to his honeymoon as Nigeria coach.
Aside the defeat, three players were handed debuts in the game with several established stars staging a return to the starting lineup.
We take a look at the overall performance of the team taking into consideration the impact of the off-field row between the coach and former skipper, Enyeama.
- Oliseh is nowhere near Guardiola
Those expecting a drastic change in the Super Eagles playing pattern, system and method, would have to wait a little further as coach Sunday Oliseh has proven that he isn’t a “magician” as implied.
Described as “the Pep Guardiola of African football” by Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) boss Amaju Pinnick during his unveiling in July, the coach’s tactics and methods have been nothing close to the Bayern Munich tactician.
Against DR Congo, the team lacked cohesion, bite and was far away the tiki-taka football the Spanish coach is known for.
Oliseh who has so far won, drawn and lost one game apiece out of three, craved for patience from expectant Nigerians as he builds a formidable team for the future.
“We are building a new team and patience is required. It is like starting from the scratch,” he pleaded.
- Mikel won’t play second fiddle to Musa
Another microscopic incident that played out in the game against the DRC on Thursday was Chelsea midfielder, John Obi Mikel, refusing the captain armband when Ahmed Musa was substituted.
Mikel, currently the oldest member of the squad, was snubbed by Oliseh to skipper the team – preferring Musa instead.
And the 28-year-old midfielder who has been silent over the Enyeama saga, silently turned down the opportunity to become the deputy skipper of the team – suggesting his unwillingness to play second fiddle to Musa.
Lazio star, Ogenyi Onazi, however took up the role after Mikel’s snub – one he could hold onto in time to come.
- More work for the defence
All four in the Nigeria back-line against DRC were either making their first appearance under the coach or playing together for the first time.
It was evident in the team’s display as the defence looked porous, susceptible and disorganised without any true leadership.
Also, the fact that goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme, who has only been capped twice prior to this game was in goal, didn’t make the situation any better.
In his three games in-charge of Nigeria, Oliseh has employed three different centre-back pairing same as fullbacks – a move which doesn’t portray continuity on the path of the defence.
The team could probably do better with the return of Turkish-based duo, Kenneth Omeruo and Godfrey Oboabona who missed the game against DRC – having formed a dreadful partnership over the years.
- Post-Enyeama era looking gloomy
Lille of France keeper, Vincent Enyeama, announced his retirement from international football after irreconcilable difference with Oliseh – which had him stripped of his captaincy.
Enyeama, who has been part of the national team since 2002, took over permanently as captain of the team from Joseph Yobo after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Though in an acting capacity, his leadership and performances led Nigeria to winning an elusive third African Cup of Nations trophy in 2013 and also qualify for the 2014 World Cup – with Yobo only the ceremonial head.
After the keeper’s retirement was announced, his former colleagues struggled and lost – a negative sign of things to come.
Experience they say is the best teacher – the team lacked leadership, motivation and direction – a far cry from the Enyeama era.
- The strikers can’t buy goals
In Oliseh’s three games in-charge, the team has managed just two goals with both coming against minnows, Niger Republic in Port Harcourt – with one of the two coming from the spot.
It explains the poor goalscoring return of the current crop who struggles to transform dominance into goals in matches.
In addition, both goals scored against the Menas in September were by wingers, Ahmed Musa and Moses Simon – with the strikers yet to click.
Just like in previous games, against the Leopards, Odion Ighalo who led the attack for Nigeria looked isolated for most of the game and had to drop deeper on a couple of occasions in order to become more involved in the game.
Oliseh has already tried Werder Bremen’s Anthony Ujah, Emmanuel Emenike and now Ighalo but none of the trio has managed to score in the games they have featured.
Probably the midfield isn’t doing enough or the wingers aren’t delivering pin point crosses, the bottom-line is Oliseh has got to make his team to start scoring sooner rather than later.