Super Eagles need confidence & determination to finish …

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The Super Eagles

The Super Eagles

The Super Eagles fans are not happy, and why should they be? The team is struggling to score goals and win games, with the biggest disappointment coming in the form of the recent failure to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.

Not too long ago Afcon tournaments and the Super Eagles seemed to go together like salt and pepper, and a competition without them will not be the same from a neutral perspective.

Due to the lack of qualification, coach Samson Siasia was sacked, and recently Stephen Keshi took charge of Peter Odemwingie and his compatriots.

The major issue that Nigeria have at the moment is consistency in front of goal, and it was illustrated again on Saturday when the west Africans faced Botswana in a Benin City friendly. The crowd were enthusiastic and turned out in great numbers, excited to see their heroes in the flesh against the Zebras in Keshi’s first game in charge, but they slumped to another draw, this time goalless.

One could suggest that not enough opportunities are coming the way of the Super Eagles in attack, but the evidence from the Botswana encounter does not support that analysis. In fact, with 65 per cent possession, 10 shots on target and five shots that were not as accurate, it would seem that Nigeria created a great deal in the final third of the pitch, only to see the chances go begging on 15 occasions.

NIGERIA’S LAST 6 MATCHES

To be fair, Botswana defended with great determination and they are certainly a rising force in African football, but this was Nigeria playing at home, and they really should have won.

In the aftermath of the game, many Eagles supporters will be hanging their heads in shame while some will be questioning whether Keshi is the right man for the job, but this problem is not exclusive to Keshi’s 90 minutes of play, and was not conceived during Siasia’s tenure.

The problem of not taking chances goes back quite some time, and was present at the 2010 World Cup where the 1994 Afcon champions crashed out in the group stages of the competition thanks to  defeats against Greece and Argentina, and a draw against South Korea, a match remembered for an incredible miss by Yakubu Ayegbeni which could have sent the team into the second round.

Poor finishing is also the reason why Nigeria’s national team players will watch the 2012 Afcon from their television sets, as they failed to convert a number of chances against Guinea in the final qualifier before letting them back into the match with a last-minute equaliser. They should have put that game to bed early in the second half.

Lars Lagerback was the coach during the South African World Cup, and he never gave the team the confidence they needed to secure victory and feel invincible in attack. In the early stages of Siasia’s time with the national squad they showed signs of that elusive self-assurance, and with it came the goals, leading to a 3-0 drubbing of Kenya, a 4-0 victory over Ethiopia in qualifying, and even a memorable 4-1 win against the Albiceleste of Argentina. But somewhere along the line that confidence was replaced by doubt, and the inconsistency took over.

Stephen Keshi

Stephen Keshi

The Eagles need to play with confidence and determination in order to get their finishing touch back, and perhaps Keshi will return those characteristics to the team. With a mandate to qualify for the 2013 Afcon and reach the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup, his main concern should be to get Nigeria scoring again so that they can play like the Super Eagles we know and love.

On Tuesday they take on Zambia in another friendly match, and they will be aiming to put the memories of the last few games behind them in an effort to return to the glory days, when qualifying for an Afcon, and even, at times, the World Cup, was a given.

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