Falcons, F’Eagles’ technical lapses in world cup

NFF vice president, Seyi Akinwunmi said,“There is still a lot of work to be done in the area of technical support before we can take on the world of Women’s football.”

But former Super Eagles coach, Adegboye Onigbinde, faulted the match reading exercise, saying due process was not observed in picking people for the project.

“For about 50 years I’ve been talking about this issue. Few years ago, I wrote a paper and stated that they should train some people as technical analysts. But at the end of the day when they wanted to do it, they sent some ex-internationals. There are criteria for determining who should be a match analyst but that was not followed,”

Onigbinde, Nigeria’s head coach at the 2002 World Cup, said. Onigbinde on his part, feels that a lot that can be done in terms of football development without sending people to Europe for training. He said the NFF had failed to take advantage of the technical developmental programmes of CAF and FIFA and has failed to use CAF instructors sent to help improve the country’s football.

“About five years ago, we decided at CAF level that all African coaches must be graded. Ghana has graded more than 2000, Egypt has graded 4000 and Nigeria has not graded up to 400. So what are we doing? All these are in grade levels C-licence, B-licence, A-licence and the Elite. It is those with the Elite licence that analyse matches,” he said.

Akinwunmi’s submission no doubt underscored the argument over the technical input of coaches Manu Garba (Flying Eagles) and Edwin Okon (Falcons) at the World Cups.

Former Nigeria striker, Peter Ijeh, who offered to help the Falcons during their preparations for the World Cup, gave an insight into the lapses of the team in Canada.

He said over-reliance on the individual brilliance of certain players in the squad, rather than a well-drawn out game plan, cost the Falcons dearly in a group that had USA, Sweden and Australia.

“We have players who do well at the African level but we still have potential that has to be refined to face the world,” Ijeh, a coach at Swedish side, Assyriska BK, said.

He added, “What went wrong (in Canada) was the reliance on individual performance. Although collective effort as a team is not enough, the combination of both would have given us a killer squad in Canada. For example, when Brazil played Germany at the 2014 World Cup, they depended on the individual skills of players like Neymar but Germany combined both individual and collective efforts.

“We also did not utilise our creativity and set pieces to the maximum, and there was no striking weapon in the team. The Swedish team built their strength on dead balls, meaning if their opponents don’t concede goals during the run of play, they can use the set pieces against them. Two of their goals against Nigeria were from corner kicks.”

The country’s football analysts are yet to come to terms with Garba’s exclusion of one his biggest stars, Kelechi Iheanacho after the Manchester City striker posted an unimpressive outing in the opening 4-2 defeat to Brazil.

Iheanacho, Most Valuable Player at the 2013 U-17 World Cup, was benched in the 4-0 win over North Korea but was introduced eight minutes to the end of the 2-0 win over Hungary in their final group game. But the youngster, who put up an impressive performance for City’s youth side last season, watched helplessly from the bench as the Flying Eagles fell 1-0 to Germany in the Round of 16.

Iheanacho was not the only promising player that did not see much action in the tournament. Success Isaac (Granada), Moses Simon (Gent), Musa Yahaya (Tottenham Hotspur), Chidera Ezeh (Porto) and another Man City player, Chidiebere Nwakali played bit roles in New Zealand.

Though some have commended Garba for standing his ground, since the players didn’t fit into his game plan, the technical deficiencies displayed by the other players exposed him as a coach.

Match statistics of the game against Brazil show clearly that the South Americans were more tactically and technically disciplined than their Nigerian counterparts. The Brazilians had 17 attempts on goal, 10 on target, four off target and three blocked whereas Nigeria had 11 attempts, four on target, six off target and one blocked.

The Brazilians were never caught offside for the entire match, but their offside trap was effective against the Nigerians seven times. They also forced six saves from Joshua Enaholo while their goalkeeper made only two.

Though they out-classed North Korea 4-0 and beat Hungary 2-0, the Flying Eagles failed their real tests against Brazil and Germany.

The Germans captained by Kevin Akpoguma, who has a Nigerian father, exposed the Flying Eagles’ tactical deficiencies as match stats showed that the Nigerians were only lucky to have conceded one goal.

Germany had 61 per cent possession, 16 attempts on goal, five on target, six off target and had five of their shots blocked. On the other hand Nigeria had 39 per cent possession, eight attempts on goal, one on target, two off target and five blocked. The German goalkeeper made only one save, while his Nigerian counterpart made four.

Even Garba, who won the 2013 U-17 World Cup with the Golden Eaglets, admitted the superiority of the Germans.

He said, “I believe that our players learnt a lot from this game and a big lesson in general from the tournament. The U-20s is a far higher level than at U-17s and Germany are a very tough and highly tactical team.”

That however didn’t save him from criticisms. One of such came from his national team counterpart, Samson Siasia, head coach of the U-23 team. Siasia, who led Nigeria to the final of the U-20 World Cup 10 years ago, faulted Garba’s formation against Germany and lamented Taiwo Awoniyi’s lone role in attack.

“We didn’t create much because the tactics was poor. It was just Awoniyi going forward and there was no support. He (Garba) should have changed that by introducing Moses and Iheanacho, but he brought in a defensive midfielder when we were losing,” Siasia said.

In Canada, the Falcons came back from 2-0 down to hold Sweden 3-3 in their first match. They had better possession: 51 to 49 per cent, more attempts: 14 to 7, and more shots on target: 5 to 4.

However, many have questioned Okon over his side’s failure to capitalise on the chances to earn a win.

Against Australia, the Falcons had 49 per cent possession, but they posted a poor outing after their heroics against the Swedes.

The Falcons technical deficiency was much more pronounced in the 1-0 defeat to USA. They managed 43 per cent possession and allowed their opponents make 14 attempts on goal, seven on target, while they only made seven attempts and two on target. But for the effectiveness of their offside traps, which caught the US players seven times, Nigeria could have conceded more than one goal. The Falcons also committed 12 fouls to US’s eight and got three yellow cards and one red.

Despite the potential of both Nigerian teams, it is believed that they failed on the world stage because they were tactically inferior to teams from Europe and South America.

According to Onigbinde, the poor performance of both teams stemmed from the lack of meaningful football development programmes in the country.

Onigbinde said he agrees with Akinwunmi that the teams were technically deficient but opined that it was the job of the federation to rectify the problem.

He said, “The administrators are supposed to come up with a meaningful developmental programme. And it is not just about the development of players. If you want to improve education in any country you first step should be to produce good quality teachers. If you want to improve football in Nigeria you must concentrate on the development of coaches first.

Truly, apart from the technical inefficiencies of the coaching crew of both teams, the federation has also failed in its technical duties. For instance, a team of Technical Directors constituted by the NFF in 2014 and made up of top coaches Kashimawo Laloko, James Peters and Amodu Shuaibu has yet to begin work over a year later.

The role of the head of the federation’s technical department, Felix Anyansi-Agwu, also calls for questioning. Many wonder what technical qualification he possesses aside being Chairman of Enyimba FC, to be made head of such a sensitive department.

Ijeh believes the way forward is for the federation to begin to implement programmes to update coaches’ knowledge of the game.

The former Julius Berger striker said, “The NFF has to initiate a programme in affiliation with CAF for coaches but this has to start in Nigeria with seminars for club coaches.

“With due respect, our clubs’ performances — not just the national teams — have not been impressive in their continental engagements, which is a sign of default in our game’s cohesion and methodology. I can help the federation to build a platform for the programmes. This will help the coaches impact on their various teams. Honestly the value of Nigerian talents in Europe is now questionable because of their technical ability.”

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