Nigeria begin their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations campaign today (Tuesday) against Egypt, but the build-up to the match in the Nigerian camp has been full of drama enough to make a Nollywood movie out of it.
It all started when they sacked their coach Gernot Rohr and appointed an interim boss in Austin Eguavoen a month before the competition kicked off.
The drama continued when Eguavoen named his 28-man squad for the tournament but had to deal with the withdrawal of four players, including Emmanuel Dennis and Victor Osimhen.
Eguavoen could not count on Dennis because Watford failed to release him while Osimhen missed out because of an injury.
However, the biggest news that came out of the Nigerian camp ahead of the AFCON is the appointment of Jose Peseiro as the permanent replacement for Rohr.
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) announced Peseiro’s as Nigeria’s new coach less than 14 days to the AFCON, although they stated Eguavoen would be in charge in Cameroon.
Peseiro’s appointment drew a lot of reactions from Nigerians, with many claiming it was an underwhelming appointment for the team.
The critics argued that Peseiro’s reputation as a short-term manager and journeyman is not what the Super Eagles need.
But, while Nigerians have a right to be dissatisfied with the appointment made by the NFF, the truth is the Portuguese tactician is the best Nigeria can get.
Although it is understandable why the fans want a manager with a higher profile, the Super Eagles job is not attractive enough for a manager with such a profile.
This is a country that could not even pay its former coach before he was sacked. No top manager will agree to work for a federation under such conditions.
It is why Peseiro’s appointment is the best of the lot for the Super Eagles. Although he is known as a short-term manager, his CV is actually pretty decent.
The Portuguese tactician has managed three of Portugal’s biggest clubs while has also served as an assistant manager at Real Madrid.
Considering all these factors, Peseiro is indeed an upgrade on Rohr and the best the Super Eagles can get.
However, while the former Porto manager may be an upgrade, the timing of his appointment is odd. The NFF named him as the permanent coach just two weeks before AFCON started.
It was a strange decision, just like sacking Rohr a month before the competition started. It is not even good for the players to have three different managers in three months.
But more importantly, the NFF could have waited until after the AFCON to see how the Super Eagles perform under Eguavoen before appointing the ex-Braga manager.
The Super Eagles may not have had an ideal preparation, but they are still one of the favourites to win the trophy given the talents in their squad.
With this in mind, the NFF should have delayed Peseiro’s appointment until after the AFCON.
In the unlikely circumstances that the Super Eagles win the trophy in Cameroon, will the NFF allow Eguavoen to continue, considering there’s the two-legged Qatar 2022 World Cup playoff in March?
Also, what would happen to Peseiro’s appointment if Nigeria did win a fourth AFCON title? These are the scenarios the NFF should have considered before naming Peseiro as the new manager.
Although the NFF claimed Eguavoen would still be the boss even when Peseiro takes over, was his opinion considered before the federation went ahead to name a permanent replacement for Rohr before the AFCON?
These are questions the NFF need to answer. In the last few weeks, they have taken two major decisions, but at the wrong time.