Last week, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) ended all speculations surrounding the coaching situation of the Nigerian men’s national team, but not without some minor changes.
The coaching situation had been a subject of debate right before the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, but it was more amplified following Nigeria’s exit in the Round of 16.
Ex-international Austin Eguavoen had taken the team to Cameroon after Gernot Rohr was sacked a month before the competition kicked off.
Eguavoen was appointed on an interim basis, but the NFF revealed they would appoint a permanent replacement in due course.
The NFF indeed appoint someone, announcing Portuguese tactician Jose Peseiro has Rohr’s permanent replacement.
But despite the announcement, there were claims that Eguavoen might still keep the job if Nigeria won the AFCON.
Sadly, Nigeria crashed out in the Round of 16 following a 1-0 loss to Tunisia. However, Eguavoen’s future was still undecided after the exit.
Opinions were divided on whether he should stay or go. Although Nigeria crashed out in the second round, the former Torpedo Moscow defender made the Super Eagles an enjoyable team to watch.
But his tactical acumen was criticised after Nigeria’s loss to Tunisia. And with a massive World Cup playoff against Ghana, it’s normal for opinions about his coaching ability to be divided.
However, after many discussions, the NFF decided to stick with Eguvaoen ahead of Peseiro, who only had a verbal agreement with the body.
There were some minor changes, though. Another ex-international, Emmanuel Amuneke, was appointed as the head coach.
Salisu Yusuf and Joseph Yobo retained their roles as assistant coaches, but Paul Aigbogun was relieved of his duties. Alloy Agu also kept his job as the goalkeeping coach.
But while the NFF did well by allowing Eguavoen to stay in his role, considering the game against Ghana is just a month away, the appointment of Amuneke raises a question, though.
This is not to question Amuneke’s ability because, after all, he is one of the best indigenous coaches to have come out of Nigeria.
But the role in which he was appointed calls for an explanation. He was named the Chief Coach, with Eguavoen keeping the Technical Advisor role.
It leads to the question. Who leads the training session? The Technical Advisor or the Chief Coach? What exactly is the job responsibility of Amuneke as the Chief Coach?
Obviously, the answer is clear. Eguavoen remains the man in charge, with Amuneke only there to assist him, and it’s just a case of semantics.
But it also highlights how Nigerians place too much importance on titles. The NFF could have come out clear and clarified this confusion by stating clearly that Amuneke is the assistant coach without adding unnecessary tags.
There’s no need to give titles that have no meaning just for the sake of it. Amuneke’s arrival is a good appointment, especially for Eguavoen.
It is clear that Eguavoen is limited tactically, but Amuneke’s proven track record will cover Eguavoen’s limitations as a coach.
The ex-Barcelona winger is also familiar with two of the team’s key players in Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze.
Both players played a key role in Amuneke’s U17 team that conquered the world in 2015. His arrival will aid their development, especially Chukwueze, who was criticised for his performances at AFCON 2021.
Nonetheless, while Amuneke’s appointment will help Eguavoen, it is also important that the latter improves on his tactics ahead of the two massive games against Ghana.
Eguavoen did a great job and made the Super Eagles an exciting team to watch at the AFCON, but he was found out tactically against Tunisia.
The 56-year-old tactician employed the wing-play at the AFCON without having another option. Although it did work effectively in the group stages, the tactics came unstuck against the Carthage Eagles, who had done their homework before the game.
Eguavoen cannot afford a repeat of the situation against Ghana. The ex-Gent defender needs to be flexible in his approach and find a way to make the team create more chances outside the wing.
He already has his work cut out after Ghana appointed former Brighton manager Chris Hughton as their new coach.
The Super Eagles have the better players and are the slight favourites, but their tactics must be spot on across the two legs.
The NFF has done well by allowing Eguavoen to retain his job while bringing in able support, even though the unnecessary job title is not needed.
It is now left for Eguavoen to deliver.