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Can Paul Le Guen Mastermind Super Eagles’ 2018 World Cup Qualification?

The long awaited appointment of a foreign coach for the senior national team has come and gone after the Nigeria Football Federation chose Paul Le Guen on Monday, to help qualify Nigeria for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Le Guen who was highly favoured by the NFF-led board prior to his appointment to the drive the course of the nation’s football forward after the team’s failure to qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, knows that he’s on the hot seat not just to impress Nigerians with his off the field of play antics but to march words with results once the qualifiers begins in October.

With the official title of technical advisor, he will be assisted by Nigerian Salisu Yusuf as chief coach. The appointments are subject to the pair agreeing personal terms. Yusuf, capped at under-20 level by Nigeria, was in charge of his country on an interim basis for two international friendly matches against Mali and Luxembourg in Europe at the end of May, which the Super Eagles won.

Having had a successful managerial career in France such as Stade Rennais, Paris Saint-Germain, Glasgow, most notably leading Olympique Lyonnais to three consecutive Ligue 1 titles. He has also managed Stade Rennais Cameroon national team where he qualified the Indomitable Lions to the 2010 World Cup; the French born tactician’s first baptism of fire will be against the Taifa Stars of Tanzania in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in September – though the Super Eagles had lost the ticket to Egypt.

Yet to be fan favourites couple with the fact that he was sacked by the Oman Football Federation after failing to guide the team to the knockout stages of the Asian Cup in 2011, an overwhelming result against Tanzania could just be the need tonic to win his way straight into the heart of football loving Nigerians who have almost lost interest in their beloved team. Le Guen’s first major challenge is a World Cup qualifier away to Zambia on Oct. 3 in a tough Group B which includes Africa’s top-ranked side Algeria and Cameroon who, along with Nigeria, also went to the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

If he must succeed in his new job, he must first ensure that he picks the maximum points against Zambia in Lusaka; beats the Desert Foxes of Algeria in Abuja before masterminding a winning formula against his former employee, Cameroon in Yaoundé to hold grip of group B.

Perhaps, a decent result in the reverse fixture against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon could just put the team a step to picking the sole ticket for the World Cup before playing Algeria and Zambia respectively in the final fixtures. All things been equal, the team could be home and dry with 15 points and make up for their failure to qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.

Besides, selecting the right players whether local or foreign based without subjecting to the interference of the NFF will also be important for him to succeed because often times, the Glass House have a way of imposing certain players on coaches for their own personal gains or interest.

Again, the technical adviser must put in place a developmental programme that will help to unearth hidden talents that are bound in the country, so that there will be transition from the under-age level to the senior national team.

Statistically, Le Guen has won 245, lost 146 and drawn 128 in 519 games he has managed in all competitions since becoming a coach in Rennes in 1998; an average of 47.21%. If statistic is anything to go by, then the Nigeria Football Federation shouldn’t expect a smooth run or miracle for the World Cup qualifying campaigns regardless of the talented local and foreign pros in Le Guen’s disposal.

Meanwhile, it would be too early to start criticising the incoming manager of the Super Eagles considering the fact that, a whole lot could have changed in terms of his tactical and technical know-how.

However, it is expected that his presence would serenade the team, instill discipline and ensure the players replicate their club form to the national team in competitive matches. It is never a doubt that often times, the Super Eagles players tend to show more respect to a foreign coach without undermining the home grown coaches.

Finally, the NFF must support the new technical adviser in his quest to achieving what the likes of Clemens Westerhof, Phillip Trousier, Late Amodu Shuabu and Late Stephen Keshi did for Nigeria in the past by qualify the team for the biggest football showpiece in the world in 2018.‎

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