As we Super Eagles fans brace up for another Afcon installment where expectations are now mixed following the untimely yet welcomed sacking of underwhelming Gernot Rohr, I look ahead at what to expect from Eguavoen's foot soldiers in Cameroon.
The NFF are rumoured to shortly engage the services of a Jose Mourinho-recommended Portuguese coach whose overall win ratio makes him seem less than a 'chosen one'. That is a matter for another day but even at that, Eguavoen will lead the Super Eagles to the Afcon with the new coach expected to take over after the tournament.
Now, as a crystal ball to gauge what to expect from Eguavoen's tutored side, I will juxtapose his 2006 Afcon coaching outing with Rohr's 2019 installment to identify similarities, differences and tropes.
1.Breezing Through Group Stage: the former Nigeria International belongs to this elite class of (very few) Super Eagles coaches to win all of their group stage matches in the Afcon when in 2006 he drew maximum points against Nigeria's nemesis Ghana, Pig headed Zimbabwe and Stubborn and World Cup Quarter finalists Senegal. The less said about Rohr's defeat to Madagascar in 2019 the better.
Afcon 2021: achieving maximum 9 points in a group that includes Mo Salah's Egypt will be a tall order for Eguavoen this time around but one that will thrill and excite fans no less if the Interim Coach pulls it off.
2. Deadly Substitutions: making effective substitutions was a hallmark of Eguavoen's 2006 installment particularly in the group stages.
It is noteworthy that the Super Eagles won all group stage matches after Eguavoen made meaningful substitutions and tweaked his tactical constellations in all 3 matches. Games against Zimbabwe and Senegal saw the Super Eagles triumph after ravaging substitutes Mikel, Obodo and Kanu either scored or provided assists.
Making match-winning substitutions was never a staple of Rohr's 2019 Afcon (or his entire tenure for that matter) but Ighalo did combine with Aina to score a beauty after coming on against Burundi in the group stages.
Afcon 2021: all I can say to Eguavoen is, 'more match winning substitutions in Cameroon please'!
3. Goals Galore in Group Stage: 'all we are saying, give us more goals' has become an anthem of us Super Eagles fans over the years and Eguavoen delivered the goods on thal level in the 2006 Afcon at the group phase. Nigeria scored 5 goals across the first 3 games in 2006 (against stronger oppositions) whereas Gernot Rohr's ever-young team managed a meagre 2 goals in 3 games (against lightweights) in the 2019 tournament in a largely forgettable manner.
2021 Afcon: my message to Eguavoen for the group stages is, 'all we are saying, give us more goals than 2019!'
4. Slow Starters: this is an area where Rohr's Super Eagles in 2019 actually surpassed Eguavoen's 2006 ward. In all bar one game, the Super Eagles picked up the pace and started scoring after 55 minutes in 2006. They were often slow out of the blocks and struggled to string meaningful passes together early in some matches - something they narrowly got away with against Senegal in the nail biting group stage encounter but paid for dearly against Drogba's Ivory Coast in the semi final agonising slim loss.
After that 1:0 defeat, Coach Eguavoen said: "We did not play well, this was our worst game at this tournament and we were clearly outplayed in all departments by our opponents."
Rohr's Super Eagles, on their part, scored early against Cameroon, South Africa and Tunisia all in the knockout stages.
2021 Afcon : I will implore Eguavoen to borrow a leaf out of Rohr's books so that the Super Eagles can avoid a painful loss akin to that against Ivory Coast in 2006.
5. Serial Semi-finalists: both Eguavoen and Rohr did more to perpetuate Nigeria's reputation as Afcon chronic semi-finalists after managing boring bronze medals with arguably affluent, buoyant and well-gifted squads.
In the history of the tournament, Nigeria have the record of reaching the semi-finals 15 times only to lift the trophy on just 3 of those occasions - something Eguavoen and Rohr failed to improve upon.
2021 Afcon: all I can say to Mr Eguavoen is 'we fans are tired of bronze medals o!'
As NFF Technical Director prior to his appointment as interim coach of the Super Eagles, Eguavoen is not entirely new to this group of players. Though his appointment is untimely, that should not stand in his way of him making a success of his appointment in Cameroon next year.
He is enthusiastic and positive about the challenges ahead and he has pedigree. So, I expect him to deliver the goods across several levels in the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations.