South Africa 2010: Keeping the Faith

Come on The Super Eagles! You have one more chance to make things right in this competition. Don’t waste it.  

Like many others watching last Thursday, I was highly disappointed in the Nigerian world cup team. On reflection, I feel I may have reacted very harshly to their defeat by Greece. Yes, I still think their performance was dire and that Kaita was foolish for allowing himself to get riled up like that but now, I am willing to allow them the chance to redeem themselves. What has brought on this change of mind you might wonder? Well for one thing, I realise that we the fans are very vocal in our disapproval but I fear that to continue to kick a team with such low self esteem when they are down might be to put the final knife through our hopes of getting a decent match out of them. I feel this might be a situation where being restrained with criticism and more forthcoming with the positives may be the best way to encourage this fledgling team. So even though I had decided out of annoyance not to tune in to the last group match, I am sure I will be watching the Eagles take on South Korea. Besides I was only fooling myself to think that I’d be able to stay away knowing there was a match in progress.

South Korea has come out fighting since the start of this world cup and I don’t see any reason for that to stop now. I hope the Nigerian team has the character, determination and creativity to dig deep on Tuesday for what is sure to be a challenging match. I want to see them play as a cohesive unit for the first time and I want them to keep trying until the final whistle whatever happens. I also hope there has been a change in the starting line-up. I would like to see a full out attacking team which means IMO that Uche and Odemwingie ought to start. I would also hope that they are as fearless and selfish as top scorers are when it is necessary (for example, see David Villa’s first goal against Honduras). Ideally, Aiyegbeni would sit this one out since he has seemed slow in the last two games.

So far, the defence has not looked solid. It would be great if they can manage to pull it together to effectively block the South Korean strikers. Enyeama, as wonderful as he is, should not be expected to hold the fort by himself. Btw, I’ve always thought he was impressive but after his stunning performance against Argentina, I hope he hits the big time. I would love to see him get the recognition and attention he so thoroughly deserves. He is as good as any of the goal keepers currently with the biggest European clubs and I think he is worthy to receive the same hefty pay packet they do.

Unlike Diego Maradona, I am not prone to making rash promises but I am sure I can think of some outlandish way to celebrate if by some miracle Nigeria makes it past the group stage.*

 *Maradona, who coaches Argentina has promised to run naked in their capital city if his team wins the world cup.

 

Other thoughts on the world cup:

*Big name teams seem to have struggled in this tournament. I could not have predicted that Germany would lose to Serbia after starting so well. Les Bleus have completely fallen apart and there are rumours of discontent within the England team which has performed poorly so far. It is somewhat comforting to know that the Nigerian team is not the only one suffering under the weight of great national expectations.

*Conversely, it has been exciting to see some courageous performances from lesser known teams. Slovenia v USA was an absolute treat and I would be happy to see both those teams qualify to the next round.

*Sadly, hopes of an outstanding African team in this world cup are likely to go unfulfilled. The level of play from Ghana has been decent but I haven’t seen evidence that the team could step it up to the level of Brazil, Spain or Portugal if necessary. The same can be said for Algeria. Cameroun is already out and the Ivory Coast is in such a tough group that their chances of qualifying are very slim. Facing a very disorganised and lacklustre French side, Bafana Bafana may enjoy the kind of luck that allows them to take advantage of the situation. We just might witness a South African miracle.

*Finally, has anyone else noticed how huggy Maradona is? He is entertaining to watch on the sidelines and his antics have generated a lot of comment but his generosity with hugs and bear squeezes seems to have escaped attention. I just wonder whether his poor coaching staff and players are not terrified by now whenever they see him approach, arms stretched out. Those guys are certainly not lacking any affection.  

 

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