Editor’s note: Nigeria's 2-0 home loss to South Africa has once again shown that proper planning, adequate preparation plus determination is the only way to success.
In this opinion piece, NAIJ.com's contributor Babajide Orevba juxtaposed the level of preparedness by the Super Eagles and that of Bafana Bafana, and concluded that the better side on-and-off the pitch won the tie, claiming Nigeria was not even ready for the game.
As disastrous as it could be, I won’t even imagine Nigeria not reaching yet another AFCON tournament after failing to qualify for the last two editions despite winning it in 2013 under the tutelage of Stephen Keshi who is late now.
How it all started
The build-up to the Nigeria vs South Africa game said it all, the Super Eagles were never prepared despite camping in France for about three weeks, playing two friendly matches against Corsica and Togo respectively.
The Super Eagles players began their final camping in Uyo for the crucial game on Monday, June 5, with most of the training sessions held behind closed doors.
I had the opportunity to meet with the Bafana Bafana in Lagos on Thursday, June 8, as the delegation waited to board a flight to Uyo. It was clearly written on their faces that a task must be accomplished – to beat the mighty Eagles in their nest.
The players were very focused and hardly granted interviews to anyone. The party moved to Uyo and we landed almost at the same time, but different airline, with that, there was another rapport at the terminal.
It took Nigerian authorities over 40 minutes to clear their visitors who already had a hectic journey.
Finally, they made their way to the waiting South Africa branded bus provided by the Akwa Ibom government as well as the NFF and headed straight to the beautiful 5-star Ibom Hotel and Golf resort, which is about 30 minutes drive from the airport; the Super Eagles were also camped there.
What happened in Uyo?
The two teams were lodged into the same hotel, but logistics have it that players won’t really make contact in the course of their movements within the facility.
It took about another 2 hours for the South African team to be cleared into their rooms because they arrived about two hours late.
They were billed to train that same day at about 5pm, but Coach Stuart Baxter canceled the session for a light one.
“I think the journey’s been of that nature where there have been delays everywhere. "
“People have been standing around‚ and on their feet for 40 minutes more than we expected all over the place."
"And after the few trainings we had in Johannesburg‚ with the great energy and enthusiasm we showed there‚ I don't want to dampen that by taking players 45 minutes on a bus‚ then doing a light session that really is not going to affect the game.
"It's two percent that it might,” Baxter concluded.
And he was right, that did not even have an effect on the game ‘kobo’.
The South Africans already had their plans that the coach even released his starting line-up more than 20 hours before the game.
The few times members of the Super Eagles came around in the hotel, they were busy taking selfies with journalists, and gallivanting around as if there was nothing at stake.
The match day
It had rained cats and dogs all through the night preceding the game in the Akwa Ibom state capital, but the weather got perfect for football as noon approached.
At about 3pm, about two hours to kick off, unlike Nigeria’s match against Algeria and despite thousands of football lovers wanting to cheer the Eagles, the main bowl of the Godswill Akpabio was ‘virtually empty’.
Thousands gathered at the gate of the stadium complaining that the ticket cost was much. It was sold at N1000 regular and N2000 VIP.
Some members of the National Youth Service Corps in the state lamented that they are citizens who are serving the state free and demanded they “want to watch the match free.”
At about 4pm, fans were beginning to troop-into the stadium, but as at 15 minutes into the game, the stands were occupied to about 85%.
On the field of play
The better team won the game. Nigeria played with no purpose and barely had a shot on target.
South Africa did all the job and got two deserved goals. It would have been more as they hit the woodwork twice.
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They navigated their way in-and-out of the Nigerian defense like a rat in a home where there’s no cat.
What did the coaches say?
Stuart Baxter (South Africa) – I only told the boys to contain the Nigerian players for the first 20 minutes, which they successfully did. At half time, I told them to spread the ball; it was a deserved victory.
Gernot Rohr (Nigeria) – Our boys tried all their best, though they were young. The first half was excellent, but we lost focus somehow. I will not single-out anyone for the defeat, because this is still a young team.
Nigeria’s next game will be against Cameroon in an all important Russia 2018 World Cup qualifier, we hope the Super Eagles have learnt their lessons.
Babajide Orevba can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and Babajide Orevba on Facebook.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of NAIJ.com.
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