It’s always very difficult and quite frankly unfair to assess under-17 football, be it male or female, from overly technical lens. But one thing they can be is exuberant with fun, energy and excitement added for good measure.
Only one word encapsulates the output of Coach Bankole’s Flamingos against Germany in their 2:1 curtain raiser loss yesterday: the word is lacklustre.
I do love these young ladies and naturally I was rooting for them to erupt like a ferocious volcano yesterday even if they had lost. But half way in the first half, I dozed off – honestly, not a word of lie.
I stopped taking my notes, jumped to bed where I endured the remainder of the match whilst drifting in and out of consciousness, it was that boring.
I totally lost interest as I struggled to connect with what my wonderful young Nigerian ladies were trying to do and how they were trying to accomplish their goals.
The Germans as well didn’t really light up the grass but at least they showed cohesion, coherency and clarity of ideas as one would expect of a European side, and Germany for that matter.
Perhaps Nigeria fans should march to the Glass House in Abuja and demand the immediate explanation from Austin Eguavoen, the Director of Football, as to his preference on the arguably outdated 4-4-2 formation.
I am not one to peddle baseless conspiracy theories but ever since he assumed that role, some of our national teams seem to have become obsessed with this flat 4-4-2 formation that 1994 World Cup Fullback flaunted as his vision for all our national teams in his now infamous table soccer exposition YouTube video. This formation has glaring shortcomings and it does not always work.
So, when I saw Bankole’s Babes file out in this controversial constellation yesterday against Germany, it was like de javu.
The young ladies, bless them, looked lost, on top of looking lethargic, listless and languid. There was little to no tempo to their game with limited vim and vigour to write home about.
I had expected the much hyped Alvine Dah-Zossu to lead from the front and grab the game by the scruff of its neck. As I looked out for her to do magic in the second half, I soon came to the realisation that she had been grabbed by the scruff of her neck out of the game by her manager early in the second half, during one of those spells when I was fast asleep and snoring.
It hadn’t been the best of day for me football-wise as I had earlier relived the whole second leg world cup qualifier match of the Super Eagles against Ghana in Abuja because Fifa decided to post that match (and other African qualifiers) on YouTube.
I thought Bankole’s babes would restore some sort of equilibrium – what was I thinking?
It wasn’t all that bad though.
Goalkeeper Faith Omilana played with some assurance and she could leave with her head held high with a number of credible and incredible saves. The duo of Opeyemi Ajakaye and Tumi Adeshina were also as lively as grig on and off the ball. The goal scorer, Miracle Usani, also needs special mention as she employed quick thinking and ingenuity to smash home her freekick in the only space necessary.
The other players have to be praised and applauded for limiting the German Machine to just 2 goals.
But in all, our girls looked leggy with low energy levels that is inconsistent with girls of their age. The likes of ageless Oparanozie or Ordega could give some of those girls a run for their money.
You don’t expect football of this level to be scientific but you expect exuberance, fireworks and innocence which our girls struggled to produce.
With a bit more coffee added to their diet, you never know, they could come out all guns blazing in their second match against New Zealand on Friday.
One thing is for sure, I will definitely take coffee before watching that second match, I wouldn’t want to doze off for the second game running. I will rather endure the game to the end, however tortuous that may be!