First off it is time we must create a proper technical development department at NFF which would be headed by the present technical director coach Bitrus Bewarang. Why do we need a sound study group?
It is obvious now more than ever before that Nigerian footballers cannot defend for their lives. Let’s check it through history. Westerhoff came and taught our lads to play the 4-4-2 properly. He got us to play with tactical discipline but the rigidity of this system was exposed by the 4-4-2 master himself and his wards led by Baggio. Fast forward to Atlanta and we got whipped by Brasil which led the Dutch man to adjust his formation. When we played Brasil again he went for broke and played 3-5-2 from the 4-3-3 he had hitherto depended on. That led to the famous finish by king Kanu. We then got the white witch doctor whose belief in this 3 man defense led us to hold siege over Guinea and wise old man Titi Camara ran to play central defense to forestall the onslaught by Nigeria. It was during this game that I came to the conclusion we sure know how to attack but can’t defend and the need to play to our strengths. Alas he didn’t Last as coach and we have toyed with various patterns yet falling back to this system as our present coach also resorted to do yesterday.
Having stated same that we can’t defend let’s x-ray the game properly. Let’s begin with what we did right in the game.
1. It is obvious now that our lads can follow instructions as the second half showed us. Our defense is not weak. It is plain and simply exposed by inept midfielders whose weight and other antecedence exposed our team badly. The coach quickly adjusted his team getting Ogu and Karo to ease the strain.
2. Our play from the first to second third of the pitch is great to watch. It is in the attacking third that we struggle to make impact. We left a good striker Un feed and clutching for scrap to put a fight against our opponents.
3. The future is not so bad if we are honest as a people and stop this agents running our national teams. We played some beautiful triangles which actually allowed Odion to get more balls and we ended up scoring.
This then leads us to what we did poorly. We did not defend as a unit and I dare say non of the coaches working with Rhor is defense minded. It is glaring that we need a defense minded coach to help tinker our defensive organization along the lines of Rhor’s attacking plans. We were easily isolated and exposed by the poor passing of Onazi and Joel. Mikel was left looking like a sore thumb as there was virtually no linkages. The key to our future is mobility and sound fitness which entails both aerobic and anaerobic fitness combines suited for football(SAC training is the way forward).
We do not move as a unit going forward or coming back. Since we can’t defend putting numbers in the middle of the funnel and forcing opponents outside same channel will help us deeply. Shehu showed good recovery and on the one on one he was able to isolate and cancel out every English onslaught. Ogu’s entrance helped Idowu as their combination checked the left side leaving the English with only the channels and with our numbers they became passengers. Rhor tried he is not such a bad coach.
We must become expressive and allow our more creative players move around freely so that the rest of their team mates adjust to such movement and fluidity which would confuse our opponents. The draw back to this comes when we loose the ball and have to defend which is why I said we need a defensive minded coach to help Rhor achieve his mission for us. Players should cover for each other first before running to their various positions when we get possession. We can switch wings and confuse opponents and we must be more professional in out display.
Mikel must raise his game and bring us that needed impetus for success. It is not enough to lead you must become a general like Keshi and Oliseh. Okocha never had that commander instinct but had the cast of Amokachi and Co to allow him give us the fantastic displays we grew used to. This team needs a player hungry to prove their mettle. If I was Rhor now I will draft Nwakili in and drop without regret Onazi and Joel. We need mobile sturdy lads who can run the full 90 defending and attacking.
Good game but we left too much space and pockets for opponents to deal with us. Try that with the Argies and they will spell Nigeria. God bless Nigerian Football and God bless Nigeria my home sweet home.
By Barrister Emmanuel Nyabam