The Nigeria national football team has put millions of her supporters the world over in another round of unimaginable hurt and pain with her loss to Algeria in the semifinal of the Africa Cup of Nations.
On Sunday night, a Riyadh Mahrez-inspired Desert Foxes devoured the Super Eagles and halted their advance towards the AFCON title.
But should the team be commended or condemned?
What, then, does the future hold for the players and coaching staff after their third-place decider on Wednesday?
Commended or Condemned?
Gernot Rohr’s men had only one target set for them: get to the semifinal of Egypt 2019.
That they have achieved.
Along the way, they lost to Madagascar, a championship first-timer that is nowhere on FIFA’s Top 100 Ranking.
But they have also beaten AFCON regulars Guinea, former winner South Africa, and defending champions Cameroon.
The team is still with the chance to win the bronze medal should they overcome the challenge of the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia, on Wednesday.
It has been without doubt, a successful AFCON campaign yet again for the Super Eagles. For that, the team should be commended.
Especially if we consider that the country was not even represented at the last two editions of the continental championships.
Added to that is the fact that 20 players of the 23-man squad have had no previous AFCON experience.
It then becomes clear, through the clouds of our hurt, that the team deserves to be applauded.
Who Should Come In?
The Super Eagles have a good crop of young players coming through and playing in some of the top leagues in Europe.
The team, however, needs to find a long-term solution in the goalkeeping department. None of Akpeyi, Ezenwa, and even Uzoho seems up to the task.
Fortuna Düsseldorf’s starlet Maduka Okoye could be the answer. He’s still very young but so is Cameroon’s Andre Onana.
There is also Dele Alampasu, the former youth international, whose progress can be closely monitored.
The Nigeria Football Federation can also pull all the fireworks to make Obi Powell Obinna switch over from Japan and play for dear fatherland. He’s 21 and he’s decent.
This talented side also needs a Kelechi Nwakali. The team is well stocked in midfield but Alex Iwobi appears to have no competition for his position.
The coach saw that the Arsenal youngster was tired and spent late in the game against Algeria but there was no one he trusted on the bench to replace the 23-year-old.
Nwakali can come into the team and do a good job.
The Future Is Bright.
This team has the potentials to be the best in Africa in the next two years.
It is that blessed with talents.
We may need to replace the current coach with a tactically astute gaffer. One who does not stiffle the resources of his team with over-conservative tendencies. One who can read a game and know who and when to sub.
With that done, this team will blossom and thrive. They will be well worth the nickname, “Super Eagles”.
And their wonderful fans will be happy and proud once again.