There was no desire. You could hardly feel if there was hunger. For a large part of the game, it seemed as though players of the Super Eagles didn’t understand what was in their front. They didn’t do enough for those behind them – the fans.
Victor Osimhen ran channels and laboured to eke something out of nothing. It was as great a personal glory as a national triumph if the team made it through. Ola Aina ran endlessly, Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong did their part also, but the overall mentality of the team on the day left nothing to desire.
The brightest response Nigeria showed on the day was the reaction to Ghana’s goal. Energetic, direct, powerful yet as soon as they got what they desired, the energy got punctured. They put their feet off the gas and deflated gradually.
The second half was expected to bring a lot more but it was worse than the first.
Former Super Eagles star, Daniel Amokachi has blamed the technical crew for what transpired in the game. He said they failed to make necessary substitutions when they needed to, but went as far as commenting that Nigeria’s reliance on foreign-born players was partly responsible for the outing. That’s lazy.
“Calvin Bassey was exhausted after the first half, and you could see that he always had his hand on his waist each time,
“The Super Eagles didn’t play at all,” the former Club Brugge star told the Scottish Sun.
“The players did not show how important it was for them to play at the World Cup. They were playing as if they didn’t know that there was an away goal rule.
“The urgency was zero from our players.
“They didn’t deserve to qualify for the World Cup from the way they played. The Ghanaians showed they wanted it more than our boys. Their attitude was not the best at all and they were nonchalant in their play.
“And this is what you get when you have 99 percent of your players born overseas,” the ‘Bull’ concluded.
Blaming a section of players is trying to shy away from the roots of the problem, which lies in administrative cracks and ineptitude.
Nigeria’s qualification route to the 2018 World Cup had Carl Ikeme, Balogun and Troost-Ekong play critical roles. Alex Iwobi was a key cog in the team that qualified for Russia and he was born abroad.
Nigerian football authorities have failed to build and have resorted to queuing at foreign clubs on weekends to find any young player with a Nigerian name. Balogun, Ekong, Iwobi, Aina, Okoye, Lookman and many others were gotten through such means.
Other than the fact they are Nigerians and have a right to be invited when they play well with their clubs, Nigeria hardly has enough locally-grown players impressing abroad.
An ex-international and a former Super Eagles coach, Samson Siasia had in the past called on authorities to convince Ebere Eze to play for Nigeria in order to solve the creative midfield problems of the team. Eze was born and bred in England.
Many national teams in the world invite players born overseas, as long as they have the requisite quality to play.
Nigeria lost as a team, and major culprits on the night were players born, bred and made in Nigeria. Moses Simon, Samuel Chukwueze, Emmanuel Dennis, Oghenekaro Etebo, Francis Uzoho and many other players developed in the country had games they’d desire to forget quickly.
The Senegalese team that defeated Egypt had six players born overseas starting the game. That’s as many as Nigeria also paraded but their desire to win wasn’t questionable.
While ninety-nine percent is agreeably hyperbolic, in line with the Nigerian culture of describing the excessive, the Super Eagles did not fail because of the foreign-born players.
They failed because Nigerian football administrators made terrible managerial decisions. And their decisions haunted them when it mattered most.
Amokachi’s scapegoating of a group is a deviation from the real problems. They should face it, there’s no growth here.