So much for ‘we are here to win the tournament’ boasts by the Nigerian contingents to Wafu Under 20 Cup of Nations as the Flying Eagles are now teetering on the brink of elimination following a rather disappointing 1:0 loss to Ghana today.
The Ghanaian coach had vowed to exert revenge for crashing out of the tournament 2 years ago on the back of a defeat to Nigeria and this his team did, only just!
Ladan Bosso was always a controversial selection as coach of the Flying Eagles with many fans unimpressed about his records. A veteran of the Nigeria Professional Football League, his CV is not laced with impressive achievements. The last time he led Nigeria to the Under-20 world cup, it ended in tears with the team crashing out in the quarter finals after losing 4:0 to Chile (the match actually ended 0:0 in 90 minutes).
So, was he the best man for the job?
But Bosso need not take the blame alone for the Flying Eagles’ below par performance at this tournament, the NFF knew for many months that it will take place, yet they appointed Bosso late in the day and started preparations perilously close to the tournament. This clearly was recipe for failure.
Even with that, Bosso and his boys remained remarkably upbeat about their chances and they almost got the result they needed today if not for some dubious officiating.
A beautiful belter of a goal from a freekick was questionably ruled out for offside in the first half after another neat finish following a decent build up play had also been disallowed for the same reason.
In the second half, a clear penalty was not awarded after a Nigerian striker who was through on goal had been wrestled to the ground.
When Ghana’s goal came from Precious Boah’s well struck freekick in the 83rd minute, it came against the run of play as the Flying Eagles had dictated the tempo of the game for long periods and had carved out clear goal scoring chances which they sadly fluffed.
It was a much improved performance from the game against Ivory Coast but they just didn’t have the rub of the green on the day. They kept the ball on the ground to build up their play into dangerous areas; they were always a threat from set pieces; they carved open the Ghanaian defence several times; they were composed in defence; and they imposed their will on the opposition for extended periods.
But all to no avail.
In short the Flying Eagles lost due to poor finishing, poor officiating and a poor goalkeeper whose poor positioning contributed to the goals conceded by the team in both matches. Bosso’s technical input was actually evident as the Flying Eagles’ angles of attack were evident and their approach was purposeful.
It was such a cruel blow to see the ball crash into the back of Nigeria’s net because their performance deserves at the very least a draw.
I would not be waiting with bated breath for Ghana to defeat Ivory Coast by 2 goals to nothing so that Nigeria can qualify. Rather, I will implore the NFF to look back and reflect on how youth football in Nigeria has gone down the drain in the recent years and put a plan in motion to recover the situation.
The situation of our youth football is really bad. Just watching the match today against Ghana, I see that the talents are still there. But the structure keeps failing these young lads.
Something must be done, and fast.
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