By Augustine Akhilomen
The 2016 Suwon four nation tournament has come and gone with lots of
memories and lessons to learn from it by Nigeria’s U-23 team coach,
Unlike the usual must-win syndrome that have become strong habits in the
country, however, the tournament has given the technical crew and the
Nigeria Football Federation an idea of what to expect when the Rio
Olympic Games begins in August 5.
On paper, it is believed that most football lovers would expect the team
to flourish at the tournament considering some of the invited domestic
and foreign players and the teams they will be contesting with at the
Nigeria’s first opening match against South Korea could have been
brilliant if the team had converted some of the begging chances that
came their way. However, the hosts took advantage of the slightest
chance that came their way to steal the maximum points at the expense of
an attacking side like Nigeria.
Again, in their second match against Denmark, it was a disaster as the
Danish team pummeled Nigeria 6-2 to the surprise of the technical crew.
Who could have thought the team was in shape to redeem their image.
Playing against an Honduras team in their last game, the Nigeria’s U-23
team gave fans some element of hope what to come in Rio Olympic Games as
they won 3-1 despite going one goal down. The Nigerian U-23 team
finished third at the 4 -Nation Tournament after beating Honduras 3-1 in
their last game.
In essence, the team managed three points out of nine to bow out in
style from the Suwon four nation tournaments with some positives and
negatives to learn from the competition ahead of the Rio Olympic Games
where the team will play against Sweden, Japan and Colombia.
Firstly, the technical crew under the head of Samson Siasia must carry
out thorough reshuffling of the defence, of which he has conceded that
it was the missing link for the team at the tournament. It is quite
obvious that certain players does not have any business in the team and
should be told to leave the team if the Nigeria must make appreciable
impacts in Rio.
Siasia added: “The biggest problem we are having right now is that we do
not defend very well; we create several chances but do not convert
them. So, we need to make changes in those areas for us to move ahead
from here, we have other games coming up too in America. After making
those changes we will see how well the team will look going to the
Secondly, the fitness of some of the invited players for the tournament
was well exposed against Denmark and South Korea as they could not match
up with the pace and strength of their opponents. This aspect falls on
the desk of the fitness trainer and also Siasia who are saddled with the
responsibilities of inviting players and putting them into shape for
To make, the technical crew must not send invitation to players who are
not playing regularly or unused for their clubsides because they will
only cause more damage to the team’s dream quest at Rio.
“I don’t see any plus right now, I only saw players that are not fit
enough, that’s the biggest problem we had. The change of weather
actually affected the few ones that we trusted to play well, most of
them faltered, so that’s a problem, and we need to address these things
in a hurry.” Siasia said.
Thirdly, the team’s midfield didn’t cover up properly for the defence
considering the fact that the likes of Mohammed Usman, Godwin Saviour,
Okechukwu Azubuike, Moses Ubong Ekpai and Stanley Dimgba were
practically not on top of their game. It won’t be a surprise if a few of
them are dropped for players like Kelechi Iheanacho, Mikel Obi and Alex
Besides, Samson Siasia being an experience coach tactically and
technically should take responsibility of the blames and not blaming the
players for his porous performance at the tournament. Motivation can
only be injected into the team if he takes the blame and urge the
players to be positive.
In addition, the Nigeria Football Federation must ensure they organise
more grade ‘A’ friendly matches that would help blend and create an
element of understanding in the team. Playing teams like Italy, Germany,
Holland, France, Argentina, Spain etc won’t be bad enough for the team
ahead of Rio Olympic Games.