Akpoborie Slams Choice of Eagles New Coach, Plots Ghana’s Downfall in World Cup Qualifying.

Kelechi Bernard

Nigeria’s elimination from the Africa Cup Of Nations AFCON in Cameroon has left fans of the Super Eagles wondering what actually went wrong with the deeply talented team.

The elimination in the round of sixteen 0-1 loss to Tunisia came as a rude shock after the Eagles had started on a bright note in the group stages – winning all games, scoring 6 goals and conceding once.

The coach Augustine Eguavoen tutored side pipped seven time winners Mohammed Salah and Egypt 1-0, sent Sudan packing with a 3-1 humiliation and condemned Guinea Bissau to a 2nil loss under sweltering condition in Garoua, the capital city of Northern Cameroon.

Buoyed by the sparkling results from the group phase, the Super Eagles raised expectations of Nigerians going into the round of sixteen clash with Carthage Eagles of Tunisia.

However all hopes came crashing to earth after Tunisia’s captain Yousef Msakni powered a swerving long range effort, which evaded the blocking skills of two of Nigeria’s central defenders, captain William Troost Ekong and Kenneth Omeruo, to beat the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Maduka Okoye.

The Tunisians held on to the lead despite multiple changes made by Eguavoen to salvage the situation.

Dissecting the loss by Nigeria to Tunisia, a former Super Eagles striker Jonathan Akpoborie kicked against the way the team approached the game:

“I believe we started the game on a wrong foot. I think we should have played a very high pressing game.

“Because the Tunisians did not have strikers that were faster than our defenders on a one one situation.

“Unfortunately we gave them room to build confidence to come after us in the second half of the game.

“I would have preferred a very high pressing game from our players, to make the Tunisians nervous from the first minute.

“We had the fast players, we had the strength and the stamina to do that, plus youth was on our side also.”

After the loss angry fans on social media hurled abuses on the Nigerian players with many blaming the young Watford FC keeper Maduka Okoye.

Jonathan Akpoborie

In defense of the goal tender, Akpoborie who scored in the final of first FIFA Under Sixteen world cup Nigeria won in China against West Germany in 1985, explained that Okoye was left helpless by the beauty of the goal:

“Goalkeepers no matter how good they are, make mistakes.

“But everybody must understand that the ball took a bad swerve that totally confused the goalkeeper.”

The goalkeeping position wasn’t the only role in the Eagles that came under some scrutiny.

The head coach’s role also attracted heavy criticisms with a section of the fans calling for the sack of Eguavoen who have returned to his former position as technical director for Nigeria football.

Eguavoen, 56, who won the AFCON trophy in 1994 as a defender and played in two FIFA World Cups in 1994 and 1998, took the Eagles job on 12 December last year following the departure of erstwhile manager, the Franco-German Gernot Rohr.

Portuguese gaffer Jose Peseiro has already been handed the Eagles head coaching position even before Eguavoen was put in charge of the team to AFCON 2021.

“Pesseiro who?

“Where does he come from?

“Have you heard that name before?”

The former Julius Berger striker Akpoborie couldn’t mince words when slamming the choice of Peseiro by the Nigeria Football Association, NFF.

Peseiro’s first assignment with Nigeria if he will be in charge (reports are circulating that Nigeria’s sports minister Sunday Dare had instructed the NFF to return Eguavoen to the role on a permanent 2year contract) will be the CAF 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Playoffs against Back Stars of Ghana, over two legs, to find out who will join other four African representatives to the biggest football tournament in Qatar.

First leg of the playoffs between the two bitter West African rivals takes place between March 24 and 26 in Accra while the second leg scheduled for the freshly refurbished Moshood Abiola International stadium in Abuja comes up between the 27 and 29 of same month this year.

On the back of Nigeria’s bitter experience in AFCON in Cameroon, the question is how should the Eagles approach the World Cup Qualifying task against Ghana’s Black Stars?

Again Jonathan Akpoborie, Africa’s highest scorer in Germany with 143 goals, 61 in the Bundesliga the top-flight, weighs in with his thoughts:

“In that game, the Ghanaians are also as strong and fast as our players, we definitely have to play on the counter in Ghana.

“Every other thing will depend on the result in Ghana.

“That’s a very big game for both countries and I am praying that our FA know how significant this game is for Nigerians.

“Africa has paid its dues in world football, and it’s so so unfortunate that we are still been subjected to only five teams at the World Cup with so much quality from different countries in Africa, that is what CAF needs to look into with FIFA.”

Nigerians would’ve gone to sleep ahead of the Ghana game if players in the quality of legendary Austin JayJay Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo and the late Stephen Keshi were part of the current squad.

According to many football pundits Nigeria doesn’t have world class players anymore, a notion the AFCON Bronze and Silver medalist, Akpoborie, vehemently disagrees with:

“Those people that kept saying Nigeria does not have quality players anymore should just stop it.

“We have seen in this AFCON that we have the players, and with the right tactical input, we can go places.”

To go those places Nigeria will have to get past the Ghanian squad who are still bitter with their group stage elimination in AFCON 2021 despite parading hugely talented international class players like Crystal Palaces’ Jordan Ayew and his brother, Dede, and Arsenal’s midfield lynchpin Thomas Partey.

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