After missing out on back-to-back editions of the Africa Cup of Nations, the Super Eagles recently booked their ticket for the biennial championship next year in Cameroon. The Eagles played a 1-1 draw against Bafana Bafana in Johannesburg penultimate Saturday which ensured their qualification for the tournament despite one more game to play in the qualifying series. Since winning the 2013 edition of the AFCON, the Super Eagles failed to qualify for the 2015 and 2017 editions.
President Muhammadu Buhari hailed the Eagles’ qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, describing it as commendable. The president in a statement by his spokesperson, Femi Adesina, said he joins millions of football-loving Nigerians in commending the team for their spirited and disciplined performance against a very formidable opponent which earned them qualification with the final match against Seychelles a mere formality.
The president said, “Having keenly followed the senior national football team’s progress in the qualifying stages, President Buhari is enthused by their confidence, sense of patriotism and professionalism, and commends these attributes to other Nigerians.”
We applaud the Eagles for the commendable feat and as they prepare for the 2019 AFCON, we urge the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the national team handlers to work assiduously to ensure the nation’s triumph in Cameroon. First, the football authorities should design a plan that would prepare the national team adequately for the task ahead. Secondly, the technical crew headed by Gernot Rohr should keep faith with the rebuilding process as the new-look national team has shown potential of formidability.
The post-Russia 2018 World Cup matches have given Nigerians the chance to observe how good their new national team is in the absence of the two star players who defined the team’s strength in the past decade – Victor Moses and John Mikel Obi, who both voluntarily retired from international football for their country. So far, no one seems to be missing them in action. The new team, although only just being assembled and have played only a few matches since the end of the World Cup, looks very promising especially in the team’s attacking options, a huge deficit at Russia 2018.
The tactical injection of new players is yielding some positive results. Bordeaux rising star Samuel Kalu’s performance so far has not made us miss Moses. He brings an element of surprise to the team and also his crosses are very good, while Jamilu Collins’ exploits in right wing back position is heart-warming. With his free role at the middle of the pack, Alex Iwobi is now showing his swagger and class.
Mr. Rohr appears to have learnt useful lessons from that painful World Cup experience when, with a little bit of quality from the midfield and the attack, Nigeria could have gone further than it did in a championship. As we look forward to next year’s AFCON, we advise the NFF to organize top level friendly matches to amply prepare this new generation of Super Eagles. The Eagles must do well in Cameroon after missing out on two editions. They need to work on their transition from the midfield to the attack by bringing speed and decisiveness in the final third. If the Eagles get their transition right, they will be unbeatable in Cameroon.
Being the continental football showpiece, it is expected that the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon will elicit all kinds of nationalistic passion and enthusiasm across the continent. And the significance of football to Nigeria as its most unifying factor cannot be overemphasized, thus the Federal Government should do the needful to support and motivate the national team in its quest for continental glory.
Once again, congratulations to the Super Eagles for returning to the top stage of African elite football competition after missing out on two consecutive tournaments.