The Super Eagles of Nigeria came back from two goals to defeat Argentina in a friendly international played in Russia last night. It was the second positive result in a row for the Nigerians after they had earlier wrapped up their World Cup qualifying campaign with a draw against Algeria in Algiers on Friday to finish the qualifying series undefeated and maintain their unbeaten run in World Cup qualifying process which stretches back over a decade.
One would believe that Nigerians would be running out of superlatives to use in praising this crop of Eagles, but the reverse is the case as a lot of Nigerians have been pointing out the deficiencies in the team rather than celebrating its strength.
It is usually good for a team not too get too carried away by brilliant performances but when a team that has been performing admirably for a while still manages to attract more criticisms than praise, then they need to be cut some slack.
The appointment of Gernot Rohr was met with a lot of criticism as the major question on every football loving Nigerian’s lips was ‘who is Gernot Rohr?’ The unassuming German got to work and slowly but surely started winning the praise of Nigerians as results on the pitch spoke for him.
The Super Eagles were drawn in the clichéd ‘group of death’ for qualification to the 2018 World Cup and the naysayers came out again, giving the team little or no chance to pick the sole ticket from a group that consisted of former African Champions Zambia, the then number one ranked team on the continent and another former African champion Algeria and the African team with the most appearances at the World Cup, Cameroon, which later became African Champions for the fifth time during the qualification series.
Against all odds the Super Eagles of Nigeria picked the sole ticket from that group and if not for two very debatable penalties would have finished the campaign with a 100% record. That alone was an amazing achievement by the team and their German coach and still a lot of Nigerians remained unconvinced with the team.
Since the appointment of Gernot Rohr, the Super Eagles have only lost one competitive game, an AFCON qualifier at home to a South Africa that had never beaten us in a competitive fixture, but then again, that defeat was important and very timely for the team as it came at a point when the team had won its first two games in the World Cup qualifiers and underrated the South Africans to their own peril. The defeat was the needed wake-up call and pick-me-up the team needed as they got back on their feet and flew to Russia on the back of two more wins and a draw with a game to spare in the group. This achievement should have been enough to shut the critics down, right? no it didn’t as the next focus was on the calibre of players the German was inviting to the team.
A lot of players have been invited to the National team since the German took over and the major talking point has always been about the invitation of ‘unknown’ players of Nigerian ancestry to the team to the ‘detriment’ of our local based players and other ‘real’ Nigerians plying their trade all over the world, to that i say, let the man do what he wants to do as long as he keeps giving us the results on the pitch, we’re good. Yesterday’s game was another example of Rohr’s belief in his choices and team.
He invited an ‘unknown’ Bryan Idowu and Francis Uzoho for the Argentina friendly and the duo had very impressive debuts with the former getting in amongst the goals. If I have observed anything from covering this present Super Eagles team, it is their unwavering belief in themselves and support for each other, in other words the bond they have is very tight.
They are like a family and this is something that we have lacked in a long time, even the glorious Super Eagles set of 1994 were not fully united as we heard rumours of the team denying service to the late great striker Rashidi Yekini amongst other things.
This unity in this team coupled with the talent they possess will take them places and we saw an example of that last night as they came from two goals down to defeat one of the best teams in the world. At this juncture, I am employing all football loving Nigerians to get behind these Super Eagles. We’ve seen united teams playing for each other achieve the impossible over teams made up of individual stars.
The Danish team at EURO 92, the Greek team at EURO 2004, the Italian team at the 2006 World Cup and to some extent, the South Korean team at the 2002 World Cup. We may not have the best players in the world, we will never have the ‘perfect’ players for every position, the truth is that for a while now, we’ve been punching above our weight, living in the past glory and placing our teams higher than they should really be, but this present team can ignite the start of something beautiful for our football and all we need to do is get behind them and their coach, watch these Super Eagles soar and enjoy the ride.