It hasn’t been a smooth ride for Coach Sunday Oliseh since he took charge of the Super Eagles; bumpy rides here and there, a devastating defeat to Congo, largely unconvincing even in victory but a steady improvement has been observed and it will be unfair to discredit that.
His human management skills have been called to question, seeing as two senior and integral members of the team retired from international football barely 3 months on the job, but that doesn’t matter anymore; in Carl Ikeme, Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Dele Alampasu and a host of hungry goalkeepers coming through, the gaffer believes (and so do I) we have an ample replacement for the legendary Vincent Enyeama on the long term and as for Emmanuel Emenike, gladly Obafemi “Obagoal” Martins have been recalled and the wonder kid Kelechi Iheanacho has stepped up, Taiwo Awoniyi is waiting in the ranks and Junior Ajayi is equally ready for battle. Save to say, we look tidy.
Where we came from….
For a while, the team looked steady and mean under Stephen Keshi. But anyone will be forgiven for thinking the Super Eagles barely keep clean sheets or win games at all. Post-CHAN 2014, the Super Eagles recorded 3 wins in the remaining 14 games that were played in the year. Here’s the breakdown: 4 friendly games, 4 in the World Cup and 6 AFCON 2015 Qualifying games. Goals were not the problem, we always witnessed goals; the problem was who scored the goals. Of the 37 goals scored over these 14 games, we managed 16 in 9 games and 4 clean sheets too. We were vulnerable and weak yet clouded by our own imaginations as a great football nation. It was beyond just football on the pitch though.
Fast forward to January 2015 and things didn’t look improved; we seemingly “continued where we left off” with 0 wins and 2 defeats in our first 3 games all under interim coach Daniel Amokachi. And until the second half of our 2-0 win against chad in June, we were every shade of catastrophic.
And then the change was made…..
Sunday Oliseh came in with no experience, really, but the numbers favor him modest and below expectation as they may seem. 8 games in and we have managed 7 clean sheets – that’s all we managed in our previous 18 games – we haven’t scored much and we haven’t scored consistently; scoring 9 in only 4 of these games, but that has always been our problem. Maybe it wasn’t so pronounced because we witnessed goals every time while forgetting who scored them?
Our transition from defense to attack still doesn’t look assured but we don’t give the ball away easily on the break anymore.And how sensationalized is our lack of scoring, inconsistent? Yes! But we haven’t been pathetic as many paint it. If anything, the number of chances we created against Swaziland from open play in Port Harcourt showed that the team has regained the confidence that seems lost; all we need to hope for now is that Odion Ighalo, Ahmed Musa et al bring their scoring boots along for national duties.
Until that happens, what is wrong with Sunday Oliseh exchanging ideas from a more experienced and established European coach with track records and a chain of enviable achievement visible for all to see. How is an interaction with a “heavyweight coach” a bad suggestion at this time?
Zinadine Zidane, who is currently the Head coach of Real Madrid Castilla spent sometime at Bayern Munich to understudy Pep Guardiola in March, that was three months after he equally shadowed Marcelo Bielsa at Marseille. Must be said too that Claude Makelele and current Girondins coach Willy Sagnol were equally with Zidane at Bayern.
If Oliseh is expected to serve Nigeria well, it should not be deemed “extravagant” equiping him with what is required. Although he is required to have possessed the required qualities; but if we’re ready to have Oliseh learn on the job, this is one step closer after all Pep’s rise to the position of a “Heavy Weight” started with the opportunity to learn on the FC Barcelona job in 2008. All Oliseh needs is time.
Article Written by: Tolu Olorunmoteni