Nigeria’s Super Eagles will face Sierra Leone on Thursday, 9th of June in their first game of the 2023 AFCON qualifiers
After the success of the 2013 AFCON in South Africa, the months that followed proved to be the toughest for Nigerian football.
The Super Eagles went from winning the AFCON to finishing third in a group that had South Africa, Congo and Sudan in the 2015 AFCON qualifiers. It was a fall from the heights enjoyed by the Stephen Keshi-led side and a realisation of the difficulty that came with motivating the players to do more.
Some of that side’s players are still in the Super Eagles with Ahmed Musa now the captain of the national team. The other member of that team still in the current squad is Kenneth Omeruo.
Nigeria’s disappointing loss of the 2022 World Cup ticket to Ghana must be put in the past if the team wants to achieve anything of significance. The trip to the United States as revealed by NFF President, Amaju Pinnick was to help the players recover from that letdown, but unfortunately, many players involved in that Abuja show were not available for the trip.
Back in Abuja, the team will be carrying the burden of expectations, and the urgent need to bounce back and get back to winning ways on the same ground they failed some months ago. A round of 16 AFCON exit followed by a World Cup miss are football emergencies for a team of Nigeria’s calibre and winning is the first step to getting back to this level.
Jose Peseiro hasn’t shown a lack of ideas in his first two games as Super Eagles coach, and he has shown his tactical flexibility too.
While it’s still early days, these are good deviations from what the Super Eagles were known for in Gernot Rohr’s days and under Austin Eguavoen.
The two losses to Mexico and Ecuador indicated what the future may suggest about Peseiro but players must display as much readiness and mindedness to put the pains of the past behind them.
Nigeria typically doesn’t bounce back easily from disappointments but any slip-ups this time will be unacceptable.
A history of rough recovery must be put behind if Peseiro’s desire to win the 2023 AFCON will be achieved. It starts from here.