The Super Eagles team B got hammered by the reigning Concacaf champions, but it was an embarrassing defeat that is entirely the fault of the country’s number one football body and not the home-based stars
In the early hours of Sunday, Nigerians watched mostly with disgust as a team parading itself as the Super Eagles got battered by the Mexican national football team inside the packed Los Angeles Coliseum in California.
Atletico Madrid’s Hector Herrera claimed a double, while Rogelio Funes Mori and Jonathan dos Santos scored one each as El Tri sealed their biggest win over Nigeria in style.
Expectedly, that Nigerian side, made up of mostly players in the Nigeria Professional Football League, will be skinned for delivering a below-par performance against their North American counterparts.
Despite coming in so highly rated, goalkeeper Stanley Nwabili shipped four goals. His four-man defence comprising Imoh Obot, Tope Olusesi, Adeleke Adekunle, and Olisa Ndah didn’t cover themselves in glory, committing schoolboy errors right from the kickoff.
And the attack, led by skipper Anayo Iwuala, couldn’t muster a single shot on target all game. Not many teams can commit those needless mistakes, exhibit such a level of inexperience and stage fright, and avoid a pummeling.
Even without those challenging factors, the outcome was predictable as the odds were stacked against the Super Eagles long before the blast of the referee’s whistle.
But the Nigeria Football Federation, not the players and not even Gernot Rohr, must take the blame for this show of shame.
The NFF agreed to this international friendly motivated solely by the desire to make money and not for the benefit of either the players, the fans, or the game in the country. No other reason stands up to logic.
The football body knew that the regular Super Eagles stars like Napoli’s Victor Osimhen and Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi wouldn’t be available around this time of the year. Many of them would either be on vacation after another rigorous league campaign or in preseason preparation with their clubs.
Head coach Gernot Rohr screamed out about this anomaly weeks ago, objecting that it won’t be easy facing the 11th-best team in the world with a group of inexperienced local players.
But the NFF bypassed the Franco-German tactician and asked its technical director Augustine Eguavoen and his assistants to cook up a squad of the local league’s best.
And even when Eguavoen couldn’t travel with the squad, Paul Aigbogun was commissioned to lead the team against the reigning Concacaf kings, with Rohr a muted spectator.
It is not like Rohr even knew many of the players and their individual qualities, and it would have been comedic to see the former Bordeaux manager send in a defender as a striker.
Everything about this Mexico match just didn’t sound right: from the hastily assembled team to the detached Super Eagles trainer.
Trying to highlight the benefits of the game, NFF boss Amaju Pinnick hinted that the Mexico game is part of the federation’s plans to prepare the CHAN Eagles for the national assignments ahead.
But how do you start the team’s first buildup game against the 11-time Concacaf Gold Cup champions?
Pinnick has promised more games in October against Ghana, Canada, and Cameroon for the home-based Eagles – the kind of games the team should have been exposed to before testing their might against Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino’s highflyers.
Still, no matter how the NFF’s best image-makers paint this, they cannot gloss over the irresponsible defeat – Super Eagles’ heaviest loss in recent memories – with fancy words.
Many will point at this performance to bolster their shallow arguments that the NPFL players are not good enough to make the Super Eagles team A.
But it won’t be fair on players drawn from at least ten different local clubs, trained only for a few days, and forced to face an El Tri side ranked higher than Germany and the Netherlands on the FIFA world ranking.
Lobi star’s goalkeeper Nwabili can take solace in his decent display. This experience, ugly as it is, will boost Adeleke’s confidence. Enyimba’s Iwuala should not lose sleep for captaining a losing team. The fault of this embarrassment is not theirs, but the NFF’s.