Before the commencement of the 2014 World Cup, most Nigerians never believed that the national team, the Super Eagles, would progress beyond the group stage. Their ouster in the tournament’s Round of 16 notwithstanding, the team performed well. What the African champions lacked was sheer technical sophistication. At the global football stage, soccer artistry alone, does not win the game anymore. Match-reading has become an indispensable component of victory.
The country’s 0-2 loss to France aborted our dream of moving to the quarter-final stage for the first time in the history of our participation in the Mundial. Previously, in the 1994 and 1998 editions of the World Cup fiesta, we had reached this same point and crashed out. Cameroon and Ghana remain the only African countries that had previously crossed the Round of 16 threshold.
For the first time in 10 years, Nigeria finished second with four points in the race to the Round of 16 behind Argentina while Bosnia and Iran dropped out. This confirms that the squad is getting better by each encounter. Therefore, even as we have been stopped at this stage, the momentum must be sustained subsequently with qualifying matches for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations event beginning in September. This is also the time to start preparing for the 2018 World Cup holding in Russia. We must put behind us the World Cup and begin earnest preparations for defending the continent’s Unity Cup which we assiduously won in South Africa in 2013.
One of the enduring lessons to be learnt from Eagles’ performance at the tournament is the imperativeness of early preparations. The World Cup competition calls for serious planning, diligence, commitment, sacrifice and resolve to win. It is not solely a game of chance or luck.
We strongly believe that the country will do better in the 2018 edition of the World Cup if we start preparing now. Waiting for last-minute haphazard preparations had always been our drawback. The Nigerian mentality that we will somehow pull through at competitive events must be discarded in the light of present realities. The time to begin for the next World Cup is now. Poor preparation is a clear recipe for disastrous outing.
There is the need for African representatives in the Mundial to improve on their performances. The continent must continuously justify the additional slot given to Africa by FIFA making it five countries as against four previously. Apart from Algeria, Nigeria and Ghana that proved their mettle, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire were unimpressive all through the group stages as clearly demonstrated by their early exit. Such rare representational opportunities should not be wasted. Overall, Africa’s outing in the 2014 World Cup could be described as abysmal.
With regard to the Super Eagles, they need a team leader that will serve as a rallying hub for other members. The present squad does not have such a motivating character.
The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) should put its house in order. The issue of allowances for players and their managers is becoming a distractive and recurring decimal that always gets addressed by higher authorities anytime we have a match. This scandalous element need not be so. It portrays Nigeria in bad light and affects the psyche and morale of the team. We laud the Super Eagles for their fair performance and wish them success in subsequent soccer events.