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Flying Eagles And Aftermath AFCON Catastrophe

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Flying Eagles’ poor performance at the just concluded U-20 African Nations Cup has been attributed to lack of adequate preparation. YUNUSA ABUBAKAR writes on the reasons for the woeful performance and other attendant factors.

The seven- time African U-20 champions suffered humiliation at the just concluded AFCON U-20 tournament in Niger; finishing fourth behind South Africa, as Mali outdid Senegal in the final match on penalty to clinch the title.

The Flying Eagles suffered successive penalty defeats to Mali and South Africa, which is not a good omen for the Coach Paul Aigbogun-led boys ahead of the forthcoming FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland.

LEADERSHIP sports gathered that, the Flying Eagles failed to lay their hands on the bronze medal, following a 5-3 penalty defeat to Ajimata of South Africa in the 3rd place match in Niamey, last week.

This was the third time Nigeria finished fourth in the competition. The team came fourth in 1979 and 1981 edition respectively. While Mali won the trophy for the first time since inception of competition, just as South Africa also finished in 3rd position for the first time as well.

Despite the fact that the Flying Eagles had booked a place in Poland 2019, which is currently generating lots of positive reactions and goodwill from Nigerian soccer fans including the presidency. But, the question on the lips of football fans across Nigeria however is ‘how ready are Flying Eagles for the forthcoming FIFA U-20 world Cup in Poland’?

The Flying Eagle coach, Paul Aigbogun had lamented his side’s inability to convert their chances to goals during full regulation time of matches despite their obvious dominance.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t score during the ninety minutes and it goes to penalties like the semi-final and it’s anybody’s game, and unfortunately, we lost.

I don’t think you can train penalties well. Our first penalty taker lost and he has been taking all our penalties,” Aigbogun stated.

Former Super Eagle handler, Christian Chukwu said Aigbogun sides have to come back and prepare very well, saying Niger 2019 tournament has exposed their deficiencies.

“Coach Aigbogun will surely know where to make adjustments but they have to do it to prepare adequately for Poland.

“He will prepare well using their previous encounter. He has seen where he needs to make amends and I’m sure he will get the much-needed games to fine-tune his team for the World Cup,” he stated on brila fm, monitored in Abuja.

Going by Flying Eagles’ performances in previous competitions, one is forced to ask if their qualification for the World Cup and fourth place finish in Niger was justifiable. This and many other questions demand quick answers from Nigeria’s football governing body, NFF.

Interestingly, optimisms are always high whenever a mention of football tournament is made among Nigerian football fans, though it is more intense when it concerns the Super Eagles. The truth is that, Nigerians like to partake and win every available trophy in spite of inadequate preparations. It is only when the team prepares well that we can dream of winning the Cup.

The Nigeria football Federation had been likened to English Premier League club, Arsenal FC, who normally want to participate in all competitions, but always fail to lay their hands on the trophies, particularly the premiership which they last won in 2004, with the famous “invincible “.

A critical look at Flying Eagles’ performance in Niger revealed that the team was not well prepared to win the trophy. They were much more below the pedigree of teams that command attention or respect, unless there is effective squad management.

If Flying Eagles played woefully in continental tournament, which is one of the parameters for rating teams, then much needs to be done in order to meet expectations in Poland.

For any Nigeria’s football team to succeed whenever they jet out for tournaments, the NFF needs to set up the necessary machinery to guarantee good outing and results.

However, countries going for the World Cup as well as the Olympics have started preparation whereas Nigeria’s football managers have not even started thinking about 2020. If the system continues this way, they will only keep going to the World Cup to participate and not to win.

It is an obvious fact that to achieve success in every endeavor, there must be a sort of motivation or gratification. Nigeria’s football management tends to be lacking in this regard. For instance, coaches are owed salaries and allowances; players are not motivated to camps. Even when they win games, like the under 17 and the women’s teams, they are not being paid bonuses and other entitlements.

No matter the analysis, Flying Eagles’ woeful outing in Niger was not far from lack of adequate preparations- preparation in selecting the right squad, getting things right and necessary logistics and unbiased management patterns.

To this end, if NFF want its teams to compete with top football countries like Brazil, England, Spain, Germany, France, and Italy or to stand a chance of winning trophies, an end must be put to all forms of ‘fire brigade’ approach to tournaments.

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