The die is cast and it is now confirmed that the Super Eagles of Nigeria will not play a part in the 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar as they will be missing their first World Cup since 2006 and the second since 1994 when the country made her debut.
Prior to the final playoff game against Ghana at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, there were obvious cracks in the playing set-up over the years but it was managed till the bubble burst on Tuesday.
In 2014, when Amaju Pinnick was elected Nigeria Football Federation president, he superintended over a disorganized team that failed to qualify for two editions of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2015 and 2017.
But in a bid to return Nigeria back to reckoning on the football stage, the NFF employed German tactician, Gernot Rohr on the advice by Arsene Wenger according to Pinnick.
Rohr oversaw a successful period for Nigerian football which included qualifying Nigeria for the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a game to spare as well as leading to team to a famous 4-2 win over Argentina in an international friendly game.
He also led Nigeria to a third-place finish at the 2019 AFCON but was sacked after 5 years in charge by the NFF board in December 2021 to avoid an impending ‘disaster’.
However, that disaster was not averted as his successor in an interim capacity, Augustine Eguavoen failed to take Nigeria beyond the Round of 16 at the recently concluded 2021 AFCON in Cameroon. He has since stepped down from his role.
Eguavoen failed to prepare his team to attack in more than one way and his seemingly lack of complexity led to the team ouster in Cameroon and the same scenario played out over the two legs against the Black Stars of Ghana. Incidentally, he was in charge during the qualification process the two occasions Nigeria has failed to qualify for the World Cup, though he was the assistant coach when Nigeria did not qualify for the 2006 World Cup.
After playing a goalless draw in Kumasi, the federal government through the sports ministry, the NFF and several Nigerians decided to give every form of support needed to see the three-time African champions pick one of the five Africa tickets to Qatar.
It is on record that none of the national teams including the Super Eagles themselves have ever received the kind of support from all Nigerians who came in from far and near to cheer them to victory.
However, the tactics, player selections, the substitutions or lack thereof were not up to par and this counted against the Nigerian side.
Ghana national team coach, Otto Addo capitalised on the team’s weakness as his tactical tweak at half-time completely confounded his opposite number.
Speaking to journalists, he said his players adapted very well in the second half during the second-leg tie at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja.
During a post-match analysis, former Super Eagles forward, Daniel Amokachi said the team’s poor attitude and lack of urgency cost them a place in the finals in Qatar.
According to him, they didn’t deserve to be in Qatar as their attitude was not the best at all and they were nonchalant in their play.
He further questioned the rationale behind Eguavoen’s reluctance to take off Calvin Bassey who appeared exhausted as he was seen holding his waist each time.
NFF General Secretary, Dr Mohammed Sanusi, regretted that the team failed to qualify despite the enormous support of the government and Nigerians, who turned out in throngs to fill up the 60,491-capacity Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja for the clash with Ghana’s Black Stars on Tuesday.
“There was nothing the team needed that was lacking. The Government provided necessary support; the NFF put all logistics in place with the active support of the sports ministry and Nigerians turned out en masse to support the team. The truth is that we left nothing to chance. It is sad that things turned out the way they did,” he said in a statement.
The NFF’s stance was reechoed when the minister of sports, Sunday Dare rued the opportunity lost despite putting everything humanly possible for the team to win.
“On our part, the Federal Government gave every support necessary. We got the stadium ready in all its glory. We mobilised Nigerians and other football lovers to fill up the stadium. The NFF called up a solid cast of players. 60,000 voices sang the National anthem in what must have been one of the most uplifting moments one could imagine. The fans gave their vocal support till the very end,” he said.
He however said there was a need to restore the DNA of Nigerian football while returning to the grassroots.
“We will move quickly because we still have a lot of work to do to give Nigerians the calibre of senior team it deserves. We will review all that we did leading to the game, take tough steps to redirect the development of our football and restore the DNA of Nigerian football. Whatever is necessary will be done quietly, firmly and determinedly.
“We need to rebrand our football and return to the grassroots and youth football culture of the past. Nigeria is a football-loving Nation and it deserves the best,” he concluded.