Football enthusiasts less confident of Super Eagles AFCON glory

As the 2023 Edition of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) kicks off today, Saturday, January 13, 2024, Nigerian football enthusiasts are less confident of Nigeria’s Super Eagles emerging victorious in the much-coveted tournament.

Already, 24 African countries including Nigeria will showcase football action to the viewers, as football enthusiasts insist the present team does not have what it takes to have a repeat of the 2013 edition glorious outing when Nigeria won the third AFCON title under Stephen Keshi.

They shared all their views on ‘X’ formerly known as Twitter space on the topic: “Can the Super Eagles win the African Cup of Nations?” facilitated by  The ICIR.

One of the speakers, an ace sports journalist and administrator, Godwin Enakhena hinged his optimism of the success of the Super Eagles at the AFCON on luck, saying that in terms of comparing the recent performance of the team with their opponents at the AFCON, their chances of putting a convincing performance to win the title is uncertain.

“If you say that they cannot win, it means you are a prophet that can see tomorrow. If you say that they will win you are optimistic. You can’t tell where it will crack. If you remember 2013, Stephen Keshi reminds us of anything that can happen in football. We went to the AFCON with a team that barely got out of the group stage, then we had the best actor Victor Moses who was instrumental in all the penalties that took us to the final.

“Anything can happen, on paper, the Eagles don’t stand a chance at all but in football, anything can happen. I am putting my hope that never say until it is over but I can’t put my smart money on the Super Eagles of Nigeria,” he said.

Analysing the strength of the Jose Peseiro-led squad and the then late Stephen Keshi’s squad that won the last AFCON title for the country, Enakhena quoted submissions of some of the players in 2013, some of whom argued that this current squad lacks leadership and unity which helped the Keshi’s squad to win the tile in 2013.

Enakhena quoted Joseph Yobo as saying: “The difference between this team and the 2013 team is first lack of leadership and unity. For instance, I  clamored for the inclusion of Ahmed Musa. There is no team chemistry in this team. Leadership is not only just from the captain. 

According to Enahkena, Sunday Mba who scored the AFCON 2013 winning goal said the present team does not have what they have. He quoted Mba as saying: “There is no togetherness, he can’t smell and feel love in this team. In 2013, they already knew 99 percent of the team that was going to the national cup.”

“Like for like, we don’t have players that can command the respect of the opposition, but Stephen Keshi did it. With the team that Keshi took in 2013, you find some powerful players, look at the CV of players who went in 2013 with a mixture of home-based players, ”he added. 

Corroborating Enakhena’s views, another sports journalist, Oma Akatugba alluded that it is going to be a herculean task for the Super Eagles to win their fourth AFCON title, stating that the competitiveness of the continental showpiece has grown.  

“You can’t expect that they will win the AFCON, you can hope that they do. The Super Eagles is not a team that inspires confidence, if you look at the build-up to the AFCON, you can’t put your money on this team to win. A team that has not been winning games whether big or small, regardless of the opponent, doesn’t dominate and exhibits that level of cohesion, and team spirit that you need to win a major tournament like the AFCON. 

“The AFCON is a very difficult tournament to win, it is more difficult than the Euro because the gap between the big and small teams is not as wide as it used to be. Ghana for example was beaten by Comoros- a country that is not so big in population like Lagos. That is the kind of tournament that the AFCON is and you have to be efficiently prepared to be able to win. So the current team that we have does it looks like that can challenge favorably for the AFCON,” he added.

He pointed out that the goalkeeping department is the weakest point of the team, saying that results from the pre-AFCON matches have revealed that the Super Eagles concede more goals and don’t outscore their opponents.

“The weak point of the Super Eagles is the defense and in that defense, the point that makes it weaker is the goalkeeping department. It is an open secret we have had problems over the years, which explains why the coach went to South Africa to allow a goalkeeper who has never played for Nigeria, that underscores the situation we have in the goalkeeping department.  Francis Uzoho who seems to have enjoyed the opportunity to be Nigeria’s number one for a long time but not grabbing it continues to disappoint Nigeria. 

“We conceded goals against Lesotho, Rwanda and we are also not outscoring our opponent. A good striker needs a good team and Victor Oshimen will need a balanced, cohesive team to do well at the AFCON because if we don’t outscore our opponent it will be difficult because our defense will let us down. If you look at the experiments the coach has been doing with Semi Ajayi and Calvin Bassey over the last couple of months, they seem to have not gel, that is why we went to call Willaim Troost-Ekong.

“That is my biggest worry in the tournament, you don’t need to get things right but sometimes you don’t try to fix your things on the war front,” he stressed. 

One of the listeners on the space, Ordo Ab Chao expressed low confidence in the Super Eagles squad, saying that the Eagles’ midfield does not produce more technicality owing to the Peseiro’s 4-4-2 formation.  






     

     

    “My confidence in the Super Eagle is not high. My biggest problem is the midfield. Over the years, we have had players like Mikel Obi, Okocha, and Sunday Oliseh, unfortunately, I have not seen that player barring Iwobi who will inspire that confidence, shockingly the coach only invited that only five midfielders to the team.

    “So we don’t think there is a problem in defense, I think the actual problem is the midfield. Ndidi being injured is a blow to the Nigeria fans. Peseiro has a very attacking mind but you cannot play that and play a 4-4-2 formation,” he said.

    Many on the space expressed their concerns, while some were optimistic, some did not give the Super Eagles a chance.

    The Super Eagles will start their campaign against Equatorial Guinea in the 2023 AFCON tournament on Sunday, January 14, 2024.

     

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