Congratulations the the Super Eagles, you did the nation proud despite playing second fiddle to Ivory Coast in Afcon final.
Although the Cup did not home, their pride did. Now the Super Eagles have taken their rightful place as a top three African football nation not to be taken for granted.
As a result of yesterday’s heroic second place finish, the Super Eagles are the most medals-decorated team in the tournament's history with 16 (3 Golds, 5 Silvers and 8 Bronze medals) followed by Egypt with 13 medals. Also, Nigeria equals Ghana as the most number of Silver medals attained with 5 each.
We had a fabulous run into the final but against Ivory Coast in the final, a lot of our strategies did work.
We earned a living sitting back to contain and restrain oppositions but Ivory Coast found several ways to make dangerous incursions through our defensive apparatus with startling accuracy.
Those fans who spent sleepless nights clamouring for Iheanacho throughout the tournament would have watched in horror as he failed to track back to help a battered and bruised Aina en route to Ivory Coast’s kiss of death second goal – a telling confirmation of Iheanacho’s limited defensive acumen in Peseiro’s negative football philosophy.
Containment failed to work for the Super Eagles as so many beautiful crosses were whipped into the Super Eagles box 18 and a number of promising long range shots were even aimed at Nwabili to boot.
This was the same containment strategy we used against Ivory Coast in the group stages and this time they were ready – lightning would not strike them twice.
Something funny to me is that our right wingback position has been directly or indirectly implicated in the most lethal defeat we have suffered in recent times against Tunisia in the last Afcon, Ghana in Abuja’s world cup qualifiers and now Ivory Coast in the Afcon final – is that department jinxed or does Aina (present in all three ill-fated encounters) have to beef up his tackles in 1v1 duels?
Crosses needed to be curtailed against Ivory Coast but we failed to do that leading to our ambitions of lifting the trophy being effectively curtailed.
But the Super Eagles can still be very proud of their run. They did their best but it just wasn’t good enough against Ivory Coast on the day.
We now shift our attention to world cup qualifiers. I think Peseiro should stay but perhaps try something else other than negative or economical football as he puts it. Negative football stifles ambition and adventure.
The Super Eagles neither looked adventurous nor ambitious yesterday. They just wanted to smash with Ekong’s goal and then grab the victory but they got smashed with great Ivory Coast wing play twice with the hosts grabbing their well deserved trophy.
In my view, the Super Eagles still need to prove they can play an expansive, open, vibrant and aggressively offensive brand of football whilst shoring things up at the back. Despite Ekong winning the Player of the Tournament award, our defence still needs defenders who are less error proned.
Peseiro tried an all-out offensive template in the first match against Guinea Bissau but was perplexed that it only yielded 1 goal in favour and 1 goal deficit, so he went fully defensive. This park-the-bus attitude saw us all the way to the final before Ivory Coast removed our wheels.
How far could Nigeria have gone with an offensive philosophy? Who knows? I felt at the time that we should have retained the offensive philosophy with few tweaks here and there but, what do I know?
Are we saying a big footballing giant like Nigeria can not play effectively with 4 defenders? Rohr, Eguavoen and Peseiro were all deemed to have failed when Nigeria played an open brand of football with Peseiro and Rohr going with 5 at the back – Eguavoen was a slow learner.
Anyways, well done Peseiro, well done Super Eagles and well done all fans who stuck with the team.
As for me, the Super Eagles are great again, reaching a major final and going on the podium!
I am super happy!