Following the knockout of Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets from the ongoing 2023 UN-17 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) after a 2-1 quarter-finals loss to Burkina Faso last Thursday, The ICIR x-rays the performance of the boys while they were in Algeria.
The Golden Eaglets exit at the quarter-finals stage denied Nigeria the ticket to the FIFA UN-17 World Cup, which will come up in November. According to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) the body that oversees football in Africa, the last four teams in the AFCON tournament will represent the continent in the World Cup.
The team, led by coach Nduka Ugbade, who captained the Eaglets side that won the maiden edition of the FIFA U-16 World Cup in 1985, progressed from Group B as second on the log with 6 points.
The Nigerian team began the tournament with a slim 1-0 victory against Zambia, lost their second group match by a lone goal to Morocco and came from behind to win South Africa 3-2 in the last group game.
An analysis of the number of goals scored shows that the Golden Eaglets had 6 goals to their account and conceded 5 goals in total.
Some football enthusiasts who spoke to The ICIR assessed the performance of the Nigerian UN-17 team in Algeria.
In a chat with The ICIR, an Ibadan-based sports journalist, Sunday Agunbiade, blamed the defeat on the coaching crew, saying that the team lacked the tactical abilities to win a match convincingly.
“The coaching crew should be held responsible for the failure at this AFCON because we have better guys littering across the length and breadth of this country. If I was one of the coaches, I think I could have resigned and found something else to do.
“The tournament proper was short of the expectations of sports-loving Nigerians, considering the fact the coaching crew led by Coach Ugabde made a lot of promises that they were going to lift the trophy and saying that winning WAFU Zone B meant a lot to them and they are going to consolidate it but alas, they really messed up.
“The performance was horrible, the ball distribution was not there, the passes, no cohesion at all. We cannot really figure out any pattern, football transition, the kind of style used if they are going to get anything out of that tournament.
“We could not even identify any striker as big as Nigeria is, so it means that the coaching crew were extremely biased in their selection. I don’t know what informed their decisions with those guys taken to AFCON,” he said.
Asked what should be done to address the problem, Agunbiade said: “The way forward for Nigerian football starts from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). I expected the NFF to have taken a very proactive step by disengaging all the coaching crew across the board from Super Eagles down to UN-13, then let them all apply again and the coaches should be selected based on their antecedents, grading, experience and cognitive working experience with a track record.
“The success of Nigeria’s football boils down to the level of intelligence and ingenuity of coaches.
“And another thing is an enabling environment should be provided by the government in organising primary and secondary school inter-house sports, inter-secondary school competitions and with all that, even after that, if there are not good coaches to turn them into golden fishes, nothing will be achieved.”
Also speaking with The ICIR, Isaac Afolabi, a football fan based in Ondo, said it was disappointing that the Nigerian team failed to qualify for the World Cup.
“Personally I’m not among those who mounted pressure or have so many expectations on the Golden Eaglets particularly in winning the UN-17 AFCON title in Algeria.
“What I wished for them is to get one of the slots or tickets for the FIFA UN-17 World Cup which I believe will help them to grow, understand each other, expose them and also showcase our lads to the world as the most successful team in that cadre. It is so sad they crashed out,” he said.
On his part, Festus Alme urged Nigeria’s football administrators to focus on developing the sport in schools.
“I want to urge NFF to do more in the area of reviving school sports, secondary schools cup, principal cup and send genuine scouts who will not give room for imposition to identify players for the next tournament,” he told The ICIR.
Another football fan, Isreal Ibok told The ICIR that the boys were not clinical in front of the goal. However, he noted that they did their best.
“They tried. Though they had a problem in scoring goals.”
Hassan Abdulrahman said the team was a collection of talented players which failed to get the needed results.
“No doubt, the team is full of talented young players and has a tactically sound coach but not utilising their chances cost them the World Cup ticket,” he said.
Several attempts were made to reach the team’s media officer, Francis Achi, but the response from his network provider said “the number is switched off”.