The home-based Super Eagles of Nigeria were massively mauled by Mexico 4:0 this weekend in a performance that added fuel to the argument fire of those who harbour doubts about the competency of local league players.
In spite of the embarrassing scoreline, there was a whole 48 minute spell where the home-based Super Eagles held their own and attempted to match their more illustrious Mexican opponents man for man. For me, this speaks to their strength of character and what they can potentially achieve under better tutelage and with greater coordination.
The opening 4 minutes were crazy for Nigeria.
First, a well cushioned and choreographed high corner kick in just 2 minutes evaded Nigeria’s entire defensive apparatus only to land on the feet of on-rushing Herrera whose eloquent low-volley finish with his right foot was already accomplished before he could be marked.
Ibrahim Sunusi in goal line for Nigeria could have been more alert to keep the ball out but his attempted left thigh clearance only helped guide the ball into the net.
It wasn’t the start Aigbogun and his boys wanted but worse was to come.
With Nigeria’s right full back on a fishing trip, Funes found himself in acres of real estate deep inside the Super Eagles’ 18 yard box before blasting through the roof of the net. It remains a mystery how the ball didn’t tear through to the other side: 2-0 to Mexico.
Going 2 down so quickly was a hammer blow which encouragingly seemed to settle the Super Eagles down. They would see out the rest of the half looking to orchestrate moves that would see them claw their way back.
Some players were giving good accounts of themselves. Stanley Nwabili in goal was pulling off some fine saves; Imo Obot showed sporadic attacking intents; Adeleke was making some last ditch defendings; while Anayo Iwuala showed modicum of class that begged for better end product.
It wasn’t initially all doom and gloom for Nigeria when the second half started. However after the Super Eagles’ hopeless high line left Olisa Ndah gasping for breath after failing to catch up with Lozano, Stanley’s low punch (after coming off his line to recover the situation) only fell kindly to the waiting foot of Herrera who said ‘thank you very much’ as he guided his neat effort into an empty net.
3:0 for Mexico.
I have been known to criticize Rohr, Randy Waldrum and Jose Mourinho for being conservative against far technical oppositions. Perhaps if Aigbogun had adopted a park-the-bus approach with counter attacking intents, maybe his boys would not have gone down heavily.
The coup de grace when a sublime long ball from deep found Dos Santos in 78 minutes, there was only one thing on his mind: lob the hapless Stanley and make it an emphatic victory for Mexico.
4:0 it ended.
The home-based Super Eagles did the best they could but came against a far superior opposition on the day. In truth, they are not aliens to conceding 4 goals. Ghana and Morocco put 4 past Nigeria in the Wafu and Chan tournaments respectively.
For me, it is not about the players but more about coaching. Had Rohr managed these boys, I doubt they would have fallen so heavily. None of the players performed to a level high enough to be considered for the full Super Eagles. Anayo Iwuala finally had his 90 minutes in a tough match for Nigeria and, whilst he did play with a tincture of class, at best he can be considered as a fringe Super Eagles player.
All in all this was a result that will give vindication to those who have always believed that quality deserted the Nigeria Professional Football League long, long time ago.
On another level, the match can be seen as valuable exposure and experience for home-based players ahead of CHAN and WAFU assignments. Perhaps, these players should concentrate on preparing for these competitions rather than harbouring nugatory hopes of breaking into the main Super Eagles.