And behold, the Super Eagles of Nigeria required two penalties to dispatch lowly Ethiopia and qualify from the group stages of the Nations Cup; an insipid performance that only just ensured passage to the next stage, but guarantees little hope of further progress.
Yes, I dare to say so! The bane of most of the teams in this tournament has been an inability to score goals. Unfortunately, this has been the trademark of the side Stephen Keshi has put together over the last year. If Victor Moses had not individually capitalized on the inexperience of the Ethiopians, a barren draw was surely the most probable outcome.
Our uncoordinated and tactically deficient team (which could only manage lone goal stalemates against minnows Burkina Faso and Zambia) now stands a negligible chance of outscoring the most balanced team in this competition - a more experienced, more determined and above all, more talented Ivorian side.
The 2013 Nations cup has so far been an exposition of the level of decadence in the senior national team under ex-captain Stephen Keshi; the direct consequence of having square pegs in round holes - from the football authorities, to the team management, down to the players. Tactical blunders from an inept coach worsened by an initial poor selection of players are responsible for the Eagles' appalling performance in this tournament.
What worries me the most is the realization that Keshi realistically does not have the least clue as to how to improve this team. Perhaps those who believe he is only trying to "market" the home-based players he selected are not entirely wrong. Keshi and those who employed him should be very ashamed of themselves because it is so easy to see that:
- In over year, nothing about this team has been rebuilt.
- The current team's performance is one of the worst we have seen in the history of Nigerian football.
- Sacking Siasia was a big mistake. Siasia's tactical nous by far supercedes Keshi's and Siasia would have built a far better team by now if he had been allowed to stay on.
- Keshi's claim to "introducing young players from the local league into the team" is absolute balderdash because playing in the local league does not necessarily mean a player is "young".
- After this tournament, the team will be back at the point Siasia left it - if not worse off - with 18 months to the World Cup.
- The players are beginning to lose confidence not only in themselves, but also in the management (as it was obvious they blatantly ignored the coach's instructions in the latter stages of the Ethiopia game).
It has not been all gloomy though. The emergence of Kenneth Omeruo is a worthy silver-lining in an extremely dark cloud. He has always shown huge potentials, but I honestly didn't think he could make the big step-up so soon; or is it our defense that is so bad? I pray he is managed properly to eventual greatness as he is one of the few truly young players.
And, oh yes! Congratulations to Keshi for finally winning a game and for qualifying from a Nations Cup group stage at last... There's no harm in achieving something on a personal level if you cannot win anything for your country - or is there?
As for the quarter-finals, beating the Ivorians will be a near-impossible task, going by the Eagles' performances in the first round of matches. The team does not even seem to have the luck factor which sometimes gives inferior teams an edge. We can only hope to scale through by some divine providence; it happened against Ethiopia.