Can Peseiro Return The Super Eagles To Winning Ways Against Tough Teams From 2023?
Nigeria's last friendly against Portugal was heading for familiar, yet less damaging territory before petulant Emmanuel Dennis penned an alternative script. After a tempestuous first half which saw Peseiro's boys simply blown away by Portuguese storm, the Super Eagles were starting to sail on calmer waters in the second half.
However, no sooner had a penalty award to Nigeria brought a ray of hope only for Watford's Emmanuel Dennis to extinguish any such hope by illegally hijacking the penalty responsibility (to the bewilderment of his colleagues and coach) and then crashing the spot kick onto the bar: a useless act from a player wh has been useless in Super Eagles colours.
A calmer head could have scored the spot kick bringing and probably ending the game in the now familiar 1 goal deficit friendly loss for Nigeria under Peseiro.
But In the mind of the Portuguese gaffer, the game did end 2:1 which in fairness would have brought the result on par with the outcomes of the previous three friendlies that he has presided over as Nigeria gaffer (2:1 to Mexico, 1:0 to Ecuador and 2:1 to Algeria).
This is however scant consolation for many Super Eagles stakeholders who are already calling for Peseiro to be issued the red card.
Truly, the match against Portugal was an outlier. After Dennis' moment of penalty madness, the rest of the players just threw in the towel, leading to a scoreline that flattered Portugal.
But Peseiro, in the eyes of a microscopic few like myself, has done enough to prove that , given time, a free hand, patience, motivated group of players and a favorable working environment which starts with timely disbursement of emoluments, he can deliver the holy grail to the Nigeria fanbase.
In truth, Peseiro took over the reins at a most tumultuous time in Nigeria's football. The Super Eagles' Afcon campaign had kicked the bucket after a promising start that proved to be no more than a false dawn. And then to see the world cup ticket fly away with the Ghanaians from Abuja had both set the scene for a miserable and rotten rest of 2022 for Nigeria fans.
Peseiro's Super Eagles would have had to literally walk on water for the remainder of 2022 for the ghost of Gernot Rohr's premature sacking to rest in peace. But, the vindication of that vehicle is in the driving and it truth, it has been a bumpy ride for Super Eagles fans under the Portuguese gaffer thus far.
So, is there light at the end of the tunnel?
Peseiro, to his credit, loves goals, plenty of them. So his philosophy is predicated upon attack-attack-attack football. He doesn't seem to believe in hugging possession for possession sake. This is just-in-time, quick turnaround one touch football progressive football with rapid incursions in dangerous opposition territories.
Against Ecuador, Nigeria had 14 goal attempts, more than the winners. Against Algeria, we had 6 shots on goal, 3 more than the eventual winners (with 1 Nigerian goal controversially ruled off). And as sour as the game against Portugal was, Nigeria still managed just 2 less shot on goals compared with Ronaldo's colleagues.
And in the 10:0 hack job of São Tomé and Príncipe, the Super Eagles had - wait for it - 27 goal attempts (with some goals controversially chopped off).
So, we can see Peseiro's philosophy play out in the numbers - not of actual goals - but in goal attempts.
He believes in himself and his boys but are his beliefs misplaced?
Gernot Rohr made no bones in stating that Super Eagles players were not intelligent enough to shake the world. Hence he elected for an ultra conservative brand that always had 60-70% of the players in defensive positions (either in his 5-2-1-2 or 4-2-3-1 formation). It worked for the German as he met all his targets. But, in truth, the wheels were starting to come off before his unceremonious dismissal.
But Peseiro has elected to throw caution to the wind with zero defensive midfielders in his 4-4-2 constellation which sees 50-60% of his players in offensive positions.
For him, the players presently available to Nigeria can lift the Afcon trophy at his first time of asking and nothing that happened thus far in the way of losses in friendlies has shifted his stance.
"[The fans and my NFF employers] should look forward to seeing the best of Super Eagles as we look forward to qualifying and winning the next Afcon." Said Peseiro this week.
Brave words from an ambitious coach whom some are saying is living in Cloud Cuckoo Land with what they have seen thus far. But it is what they are yet to see that Peseiro believes will win doubters over.
It is only by returning the Super Eagles to winning ways against credible oppositions that Peseiro's credibility will be crafted.
Until then, one can expect his statements, however laudable, buoyant and optimistic, to be largely met with a great deal of skepticism from those waiting for him to put emphatic victories where his mouth is.
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