Nigeria started 2021 with two targets to accomplish, qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations and then reach the final playoff round of the 2022 World Cup qualifier.
They have managed to achieve both targets. The team qualified for next year’s AFCON with a game to spare after finishing top of a group that had Sierra Leone, Lesotho and Benin.
And just last Tuesday, the three-time African champions played a 1-1 draw with Cape Verde at the Teslim Balogun Stadium to secure their place in the final playoff round in the African section of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
The qualification means Nigeria will also be looking to achieve two targets in 2022, which is to win the AFCON and qualify for the World Cup itself.
However, while they have managed to achieve their two goals for the year, confidence in the team is at an all-time low, and fans are not looking forward to watching the team next year.
It is not hard to see why fans have lost confidence in the Super Eagles. Since they finished third at the 2019 AFCON, their performance under coach Gernot Rohr has been tough to watch.
Although they have managed to achieve qualifications for AFCON and the playoffs, the three-time African champions have lost their spark under Rohr.
Opponents now go into the game against the Super Eagles with the belief that they can beat them. They have lost that fear factor and their identity.
The team’s general play has been boring to watch despite the numerous talents in the squad. The performance over the last two years has been uninspiring, even though some will argue that it is all about the result.
But while that may be true, it should not come at the expense of giving fans something to cheer about, especially against teams they are expected to beat.
In the last two years, the Super Eagles have played against teams like Sierra Leone, Benin, Liberia, Cape Verde and the Central African Republic.
Yet in these games, these teams looked more well-organised than the Super Eagles despite having a better squad.
Although big names do not win a game of football, the Super Eagles should still be doing better against teams like Sierra Leone, given the talents in their squad.
However, that has not happened in the last two years, no thanks to the coaching department in the team. During this period, the Super Eagles blew a four-goal lead against the Leone Stars at home, while they also failed to beat them in the return leg.
They needed a last-minute strike to beat Benin away from home, while they also failed to beat Cape Verde in Lagos.
This is a poor record by all standards as they have the quality to play better. But since 2019, the Super Eagles have been result-oriented under Rohr with no identity.
However, the problem with result-oriented teams is that they are always found out, which is why opposition teams now believe they have a chance of beating Nigeria.
It is why the team won just only one home game in their World Cup qualifying group that had Cape Verde, CAR and Liberia.
The team’s lowest point in the qualifying campaign was when CAR secured a 1-0 win in Lagos, which was not a surprise because when a superior team fails to take the initiative in a game, it gives the underdog more belief.
And the longer the game goes, the more belief the underdog has, which was what happened in the match against CAR at the Teslim Balogun Stadium.
It was more of the same in the last group game against Cape Verde, but luckily for the three-time African champions, they were able to secure a draw that guaranteed their spot in the playoff round.
However, after that game, it was clear something needed to change. Rohr had to go as Nigerian fans have had enough of him.
But a week after the game, the German tactician’s future is still unresolved, even though reports claim he has been relieved of his duties.
The confusion surrounding his future has put the team in an unwanted position with just over a month before AFCON kicks off in Cameroon.
Right now, it is still unclear who will be in charge of the team for the Biennial competition, which is not an ideal situation for the players and fans of the team.
With this current situation and the team’s poor performance, it is hard to see Nigeria winning the competition, given the likes of Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, Algeria, and Tunisia will all be at the tournament.
2022 is a big year for the Super Eagles with the AFCON and World Cup qualifying playoffs. But given the team’s current state, fans can only look forward to all the matches with trepidation.