The Nigerian Super Eagles continue to soar to victory after victory despite the stupidity of the Buhari appointed Minister of Sports Dalung. Today, they beat Denmark 2-0, as their allowances were yet to be paid by the Sports ministry/ The coach said that he was sympathetic to the players, who refused to practice yesterday Friday, August 12, as his own salary and those of his assistant coaches had not been paid for five months. Stilly Nigeria went out and beat the Denmark team in such a resounding way.
This team has had a lot of obstacles put in their way, not by their opponents, but by the Nigerian government through its Minister of Sports.Below is a report by Associated Press.
This misadventure started with missed flights. The team was stuck in Atlanta because sports minister Solomon Dalung decided that the time to buy tickets for the departing flight to Rio would be at the last minute. Delta was not amused when their payment didn’t go through and their initial charter was grounded. They tried again, but the second charter plane was too small to carry the entire entourage of the national team.
The issues were finally resolved, but the delay meant that Nigeria arrived in Rio just six hours before their first game against Japan. When they did arrive and go out onto the field for the game, they were welcomed with Venezuela’s national anthem rather than their own.
The match itself was just as chaotic. Nigeria scored five goals while constantly swarming and bewildering their Japanese counterparts. Oghenekaro Etebo scored four goals and by the 66th minute, Nigeria were 5-2 up and doing the improbable. Not only were they playing in a match after just landing a few hours before, but they were obliterating the competition.
Then they almost gave it all up. The warning signs were there with the first two Japanese goals, the first came from a clumsy challenge in the box that resulted in a penalty, and the second was naive defending and ball-watching that allowed Japan to carve their way through the defense.
Japan’s third came from a simple overlap on the left side of the box and a cross into the middle that Takuma Asano converted. Nigeria’s defense were so enamored with the initial man on the ball that when the pass went to the overlapper, everyone was yards behind and scrambling to recover.
The fourth goal scored for the same reason. The defense once again stared down the passer so much that when the ball went into Musashi Suzuki and took him into the box, the defenders were racing back to atone for their lapse in concentration. All Suzuki had to do then was use their momentum against them by cutting back and curling it beyond the keeper with his left foot.
Thankfully, that fourth Japanese goal was in the 95th minute and the match ended soon after. Still, even with all of these mistakes, the fact that Nigeria secured a victory with all of the circumstances surrounding the match was incredible. It was a testament to the ability of the team, if they could do this without rest, imagine what could happen if they could manage peace before the next game.
The match against Sweden came and went. Umar Sadiq scored the lone goal in the 39th minute, but that score is deceitful because Nigeria peppered the Swedish goal with shot all game. Had they been luckier, the scoreline would have reflected how well they played, though the same defensive lapses, that are seeming more and more of a reflection of the coach’s style of play or just a personality of the team, were still present. But a one-nil victory was enough.
They lost against Colombia, and the wasteful finishing and defensive naivety came to haunt them. It was immediate punishment. A long ball from Dorlan Pabón from the left of midfield found Teófilo Gutiérrez racing into the box on the far side, with the fullback so high up the pitch that he was almost ten yards away from the man he was supposed to be marking.
Gutiérrez took a touch and then sent the bouncing ball into the bottom right corner of the net.
The second goal came from a penalty. Daniel Akpeyi, the goalkeeper, came out for a ball and instead got the legs of the attacker, leaving the referee no choice but to award a spot-kick and punish him with a yellow. Pabón converted and that was that.
The game itself was a scrappy affair to say the least, but Colombia, who had the ball less, did most of the damage. They consistently created chances and took full advantage of Nigeria’s insistence on treating defending as an optional part of the game.
Though the loss didn’t hurt Nigeria’s qualification for the knockout stages, it revealed some harsh truths. Against teams like Japan or Sweden, Nigeria has the firepower and ability to overpower them. The team is full of some very talented individuals who are capable of creating magic out of nothing, the most valued skill in football, but the style of play caters to that ability to the extreme. It forgoes everything else.
It works, and it is very fun to watch, until they run into a disciplined team like Colombia, who are just as, if not more talented and not at all as foolish. If teams decide that they want to go toe-to-toe with Nigeria in a shoot-out then the favor is with the Eagles, but if they instead decide to be patient and attack accordingly, they will find that there are many cracks in the defense and that Nigeria are willing to offer them opportunities with mistakes.
Denmark is likely not the team to capitalize on that. Not after that episode with Brazil.
So Nigeria should be able to progress beyond the next stage and continue this fairytale full of heroic achievements and very obvious faults and almost laughable self-sabotage. It’s the story of the greater federation, the management carrousel and the team itself.
The story now is that the players have boycotted training because of a dispute with their payment, which again, recalls the same situation with the full national team in Brazil two years ago. This is surely to be followed by another incredible game because that’s just how this rollercoaster goes. Discord, controversy and excitement, it’s practically in the DNA of the national team.