What Went Right? The Super Eagles just flew around the pitch, arguably the fastest team in this tournament, and they relied on it almost exclusively in all facets of the game. In attack they didn’t so much build up an attack or counter as much as just used their speed to fly by their opponents into the attacking end, which in and of itself cause some mistakes in the back. Managed to use their pace to find space for themselves to get forward. Can you believe their attack was actually predicated on pitch-and-run at this level? Actually got forward pretty well and took their share of shots. Played more with enthusiasm than with any real technical or tactical quality. The good things that happened in attack were all the result of individual achievement more than by collective design. They got very good contributions from the bench. Goalkeeping was spectacular – God knows it had to be.
What Went Wrong? Well, speed is all very well and good, and you certainly can’t teach speed. But at some point and certainly at a high level of football you have to be tactically and technically proficient at something. The level of disorganization was mind-boggling. It was as if the players were told to stand someplace on the pitch, then given the requirements of that position just go for what you know. Given the amount of football talent on this side, I can understand why the president of Nigeria wanted to have an official government inquiry after playing so awfully.
Who Stepped Up To The Plate? You know your team needs help when you play this badly yet your goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, is one of the four or five best in the tournament. Left fullback Chidi Odiah got forward and provided some consistent attacking down the wing. Dickson Etuhu got forward and beat feet into the attacking end pretty regularly. Kalu Uche created some direct attacks pretty well. Target man Aiyegbeni Yakubu was a good provider up front. Nwankwo Kanu and Obafemi Martins made good headway in attack off the bench. Taye Taiwo was the best thing about their defense as a stopper in front of the backline.
Who Didn’t Show Up? The center of defense, Joseph Yobo and Danny Shittu was as disorganized as they come. Rabiu Afolabi was useless both in defense and going forward on the right flank, as was Yussuf Ayila in front of the backline (it was the soft center that teams took advantage of). More Nigerian attacks got interrupted because of Chinedu Ogbuke’s dreadful ball skills and unadvised runs into the attacking end.
How Was The Coaching? Lord knows I’ve never like Lars Lagerback. His low expectations and mundane tactical system pervaded the Sweden team for almost ten years. Fortunately it won’t take that long for Nigeria to get rid of him. This is what the FIFA bio says about Lagerback: “He ultimately ended up with Nigeria after he came out top in an interview process that also included Sven-Goran Eriksson, Glenn Hoddle, Bruno Metsu and Ratomir Dujkovic…” Must have been a charmer.
Did They Finish Where They Were Expected? Oh, Hell no. Their group was not the world’s most difficult. Given that they were playing on their continent and had the athletes they had, the Super Eagles at the very least should have gotten out of the group.
Now What? Nigeria has been living on sheer natural athleticism and their reputation for way too long. Even teams in their own region of Africa have figured them out by now. It’s about time this side was taught how to play fundamentally sound tactical and technical football. Start with getting rid of Lagerback.