Nigeria’s quest for a third Nations Cup triumph ended yesterday on a very scrappy note. It was a painful loss, not because we were knocked out of the competition but because we lost to a side that has not shown real class since the competition started. A comprehensive study of the Ivorian team shows that they are not so wonderful and a friend playfully said that Cameroon played friendly match with them and that we trained with them 🙁
When I saw the team list before kickoff, I was disappointed we have 3 players who were not supposed to start. Osazee Odemwingie is not the best option to use in that kind of match with a physical team like Ivory Coast and I wondered what Utaka was doing on the bench. Sanni Kaita is no doubt a talented young man but how can we explain his replacing injured Ayila (Good performer) on a semi-final berth with a team like Ivory Coast. This young man did not even play in the preliminaries and Obodo was on the bench. You might want to say that Westerhof did same with Amunike vs Zambia in 1994 finals, but that was different because Amuneke already proved himself in the under-23 team and was doing very well with Zamalek of Egypt and note also that if had messed up that day, there was Yekini to cover up for him. Yesterday against Ivory Coast was different because Kaita played in a very important role and was not able to step into Ayila’s big shoes.
Now, Kanu is a talismanic player and we all know the kind of magic he brings into the team when he comes from the bench, he showed this throughout the competition except yesterday when he was in the starting 11. I wondered what Zerezo was up to when he started Kanu in that match. Note that every game Kanu had excelled for Nigeria in the recent past has been as a substitute and a coach needs to use this Psychological advantage to the fullest.
I salute Henri Michel, a World Cup and European Cup winning coach with France and now Ivory Coast coach. He read us like a book and capitalized on our wrong selection to win the match. I believe that if we had played the same team that played Tunisia and replace Ayila with Obodo, we will have a better story to tell today. Our midfield was suspect almost throughout until Okocha brought some respite which was too late to amount to anything.
I also salute African Referees for their continuous wobbling performance on the job; I don’t blame FIFA for leaving them out of major competitions. It takes no angel to know that Drogba was offside though I know they played better than us due to our funny team selection.
We look forward to those days when Nigeria and Nigerians will learn to maximize the potentials that God has given to us. We will get there!