World Cup Friendlies: Eagles Beware!

By Daily Sports on March 26, 2018

The missing IAAF $150,000 money article of last week came out tops in every material particular, as readers sent in their SMS messages, most unprintable, for want of a better word. The fact is that Nigerians rose in anger against Solomon Dalung and those that are directly or indirectly connected with the missing Dollars.

After several denials, Dalung owned up to the extent he promised to refund the missing money. It was a very untidy setting that brought the government to public ridicule but that is being too ambitious because the present Mohammed Buhari APC led government has neither shame, sense of responsibility, empathy nor humane feeling for the suffering citizenry.

It was the shame of Solomon Dalung and mockery of the Buhari administration’s obvious hypocritical war on corruption. We have seen that it has been a mere slogan targeted at political and other enemies of the President, otherwise why would Solomon Dalung, Minister of Sports and Youths Development, Bolaji Abdullahi, former Minister of Sports and Youths Development and now APC National Publicity Secretary, Chibuike Amaechi, Minister of Transport, etc, be walking free on the streets of Abuja and all while Buhari and his cohorts are busy looking the other way. Let that be with them!

Presently, I’m in a joyous mood as I put this page to bed. However, not that I won a jackpot but for the love of the round leather game. The Russia 2018 World Cup fever is building up enduringly. Nigeria started part of her preparations with a grade A friendly match against highly rated Polish national side in Wroclaw last week Friday. It was one game that came with its high profile media hype and all.

Commentators, foreign and local were at their best analysing the game. It attracted attention because of many established stars that adorn the Polish team. Poland, we all knew has stronger pedigree than Nigeria. For instance, the country is ranked 6th in FIFA while Nigeria, 52nd. Poland has array of star players plying their trade in some of the top European club sides while the reverse is the case for Nigeria. I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that Nigeria played as an underdog against her host.

To be honest with you, it was an interesting game. Everyone was on edge before the kick-off. Many never gave Nigeria a chance of survival in the first five minutes but such school of thought forgot that football is and has remained a game of contradictions. It is one sport that you don’t easily stick out your neck blindly otherwise it will be cut-off instantly before you say Cristiano Rolando. Incidentally, the above has contributed immensely to the thickness of the game and also heightened the intrigues and the suspense associated with the large followership of the most popular single sport in the globe.

Such was the kind of game between Poland and Nigeria. I gave Nigeria a chance in that friendly despite the towering striking prowess of Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewendouski and his gang in the Polish squad. Even the lion hearted could melt on mere hearing of the names of these stars in a line up against younger players most of whom have not been in the big stage of the game for the first time. If you like, it was a mixed grill for the young Super Eagles team worsened by the absence of John Mikel Obi, the commander of the side. It could only take the brave to dare such raw opponent and in front of her vocal and partisan home fans.

The Nigerian team armed with courage, confidence, focus, zeal and foremost determination went, saw and conquered. Don’t mind all sorts of reactions that have greeted the game; remember many were done out of frustration as their highly prejudiced analysis and expectations failed woefully.

One thing you cannot take out of the game between Poland and Nigeria was that it was a very difficult match. It was a highly technical and tactical game anchored by the teams’ technical hands.

Let me confess that my confidence grew vehemently on the ability of the Super Eagles to hold its day’s opponent when the West African giants survived the first 10 minutes; remember that the opening minutes have posed a problem for the Eagles of late even against Argentina. It showed the Franco- German handler, Gernot Rohr is proactive, on top of his game, thinking and working ahead. He seems to have got the antidote for this. His formation against the all-powerful Poland helped in no smaller measure to neutralise the revamping tendencies of the European side. The Nigerian boys gained confidence as the high tension game progressed.

One remains impressed in the defence ability of the Eagles. The team’s sense to cover our first goalkeeper Francis Uzoho who despite shaking terribly in the first opening minutes gained some good measure of confidence as the game advanced. He showed that with time within the friendly matches’ window he would be better placed to withstand opponents of Nigeria in World Cup proper. The defence did a yeoman’s job ensuring that the goalie was not exposed terribly. Again, one must point out too that Victor Moses and Kelechi Iheanacho played strictly to instruction playing deep in the defence which saved us some anxious moments all to the frustration of our host.

The Polish bench and team saw a very difficult side in the Eagles as all the players that lace their boots were quite determined to get the host on bended knees. I saw the team playing like a closely knit gang. The marksmanship of the Nigerian squad was obviously average. The host team tried to use aerial ball to score because they are taller and can effectively also make use of their heads but they were not lucky though; however that may have occasioned via the resolute policing by the Eagles which may have further made light of whatever strategy the host must have mapped out. 

Yes we won the game by a lone goal through hard work and imaginative play by Victor Moses who justified his prime membership of the squad. His sole run was timely and the Polish defender had no other alternative at that close than to act the way he did and the referee made no mistake to point at the penalty spot.

It was well deserved no matter whatever name the likes of SuperSport would term it. It was no fluke. Moses wasted no time to put the ball beyond the former Arsenal goalkeeper.  Even some of my colleagues said it was mother luck that saw the Eagles through. All these kind of afterthought talks make me lose appetite, but being lucky whether mother or father luck is part and parcel of the game of football. It is not exclusive to any team. I don’t like people that fail to call a spade by its name. It is better to give honour to whom it is due. The Nigerian boys played and defended well and earned their victory. Whatever name these short sighted people may have given it in their bid to remain relevant after selling themselves out with one sided commentaries and analysis before the match remains in the refuse dump of history.

Go and ask Gernot Rohr and his players and they will tell you what the hell they saw to contain the Polish highly mobile squad. The Polish team would readily tell you that their game against the Nigerians was first class and true picture of what they expect from Senegal in their Russia 2018 group match.

The Eagles I saw last Friday night in Wroclaw was an improved team; a team that held Poland toe for toe, ensuring the European side did not score within 10 minutes unlike the past. A team so determined to prove a point; a team that almost all the analysis was against. Against such odds it stood firm and headlong against a team that is highly rated. Heads or tails, it was a good beginning for the young Nigerian team that is searching for relevance and fame. A side made up of individual budding ball joggling players determined to announce their arrival at the World stage.

I don’t know the insinuation of the armchair critics of the Super Eagles performance on the style and manner it won highly rated Polish team meant. We are waiting but I call theirs a face saving measure because they wrote off the Nigerians against Poland. Theirs was straight jacket posturing and it backfired on their forehead.  I term them as the irrelevant lots.

This is not to say that the Eagles have arrived, No, Not at all. However with the kind of head coach the country has, it is a continuous process which will see the team be in good stance as the World Cup 2018 in Russia berths. Rohr is a never say die coach. He has a very high spirit for excellence. He made hard work his thrust and the players he is working with are determined and ready and hungry to learn and be relevant.

All the team need now as the World Cup date draws is encouragement and motivation. This is the main thrust of the game.

We must pat them on the back for a job well done against Poland and tell them in clearer terms that the road is still long to travel. That a good result and showing in the remaining friendlies would give them the much needed confidence and zeal they needed to go into the World Cup for exploits.

We must not fail to drum that into their ears. The Eagles will do their best if necessary assistance is given to the entire team and its technical crew. The fact is that the team has shown focus, grit and character of an ever evolving side ready to do battle with whatever side no matter its pedigree.

Aside, the squad’s show of strength against the Polish side, Rohr has breathed confidence of ‘you can do spirit’ into the boys. The kind of determination and hunger running in their veins is high. Now if you have been following the Nigerian team from the qualifiers to the game against Poland, you may have discovered that the team improves in every game.

We must acknowledge the strength of this team because going to Poland for instance to survive the fireworks from eleven players and teeming supporters is no mean feat. Those making nonsense insinuations against the Eagles’ victory have not only exposed their little knowledge of the game but also their little knowledge of the progression of the team.

This is just the beginning of the good things to come. With redoubled efforts and clear planning aimed at making the team believe vehemently in itself, its ability to deliver no matter the team and level of players as such, then Nigeria is a step further into molding a great side to the Russia 2018 World Cup football summit.

The aim of friendly game(s) is for the technical crew to assess the strength and level of its team and individual players and go back to the drawing board. In as much as the Eagles beat the Polish national team in their first friendly does not mean the Nigerians have arrived, rather it is step showing the squad way to go and to work harder as the preparations builds up.

One believes that Rohr must have told them that they have done nothing extra- ordinary from what is expected from them as worthy representatives of over 200million Nigerians and by extension the continent of Africa.

Serbia is equally a never say die side. My watch in any of their friendlies is not necessarily whether win or lose rather how they take on their opponents. How they play and how they react during the offensive and under pressure situations. Their recovery level and those key points that make a team would always be my watch out and it was what I looked out for during their last week Friday’s game in Wroclaw, Poland. My verdict is that they did well holding their opponents despite the early rush by the host. They held their own and ensured they were not distracted.

The team must remain resolute against Serbia come Tuesday, March 27, in London. Serbia is a crack side also with some star players that can turn things around at the slightest chance. The Eagles must remain focused and steadfast against Serbia. Rohr knows what to do as his boys face yet another dreaded opponent in the friendly build up to the World Cup.

Eagles with determination can face squarely the formidable instinct in Serbia .It is obvious that it won’t be an easy game as another difficult tug of war like game where only the fittest will get greater share looms in London.

We are already on top of the game. Our social media handles are open. Let’s discuss more on Serbia game as we did before, during and after the Polish encounter. We can beat our chests to say we did justice to the last game without prejudice. Let’s keep the frame on and keep sporting. Keep shooting hard tell next week!!

Source Daily Sports

Posted March 26, 2018


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