In that tournament, Messi denied Nigeria the opportunity of mounting the podium. Three years later, Messi also ensured that Nigeria did not win the Beijing Olympics football gold.
As if this Argentine only mission on planet earth was breaking the hearts of Nigerian football fans, at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he led his wards to beat Nigeria 1-0 at the group stage of that tournament.
In these last two tournaments, Mikel was absent. In Beijing, Mikel’s absence was his fault, refusing to play the qualifiers. Coach Samson Siasia will not have anything to do with him.
However, his failure to play for Nigeria at the 2010 World Cup was as a result of an injury he cupped a week to the start of the tournament.
But at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, Mikel was there when Messi inflicted defeats on the country. While the 3-2 loss in 2014 in Brazil did not stop Nigeria from progressing to the knockout stage, in 2018, the 2-1 loss ended all hopes of progression.
After Nigeria crashed out of the tournament, Rohr explanation was that the team lacked experience.
“When you have good players that Argentina, it is difficult. They were pushing and we did not because we did not have their experience. We did not have it today (June 26).”
Was inexperience truly the cause of the team’s first-round ouster in Russia?
Signs of a bad outing at the World Cup in Russia started manifesting during the friendly matches organized for the team to put it in good stead for the tournament.
While many thought that the loopholes would be corrected before the start of the tournament, alas that was not the case.
The signs were the results of football agents seeking to force their players on the coach. Though many thought that Gernot Rohr would resist such move, he has to cave in when it became apparent that there was nothing he could do.
A source revealed in Russia that the coach after much pressure has to concede five slots to the agents masquerading in the guise of scouts. “In fairness to the coach, he selected 18 players leaving five slots to the racketeers. In fact, an agent has four slots in the team. These agents ensured that some players did not have a spot in the team.”
If Kenneth Omeruo after his disastrous outing in the 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa in Uyo, found his way back into the team, and a player like Efe Ambrose, who started 33 of 34 league games and scored three goals for Celtic as a defender in the Scottish league last season was never looked at after 2014 World Cup, then something was fundamentally wrong with the team selection.
“The World Cup is the biggest stage. This is where you present your best. It is not a stage where you experiment with young players,” lamented an FA Boss in Saint Petersburg after the country exited the tournament.
“We pride ourselves for having the youngest team, is there an award for such. Was having the youngest team gave us the World Cup? He asked. Even the young players should have complemented the experienced ones and not the other way round.”
These football agents, we learnt, did not only arrange the friendly games but were part of the team selection process.
The attitude of some players also did the team more harm than good. For example, Victor Moses attitude did not in any way helped the team. He just refused to play because he was redeployed to the wingback position that he plays for his club in London.
While Rohr wanted the world to believe that the player was ready to make any sacrifice for the Super Eagles, the contrary was the case on the field. His lackadaisical approach on the field was to the contrary.
According to John Joshua-Akanji, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) J&B Konsult and a former BBC Sports Correspondent, “your attitude in life will determine your altitude. Victor Moses attitude on the field left much to be desired.”
Joshua-Akanji was not the only person that held such opinion. In fact, many Nigerians in Russia believe that the player has no business again in the team.
“If this is how he plays, will he has a starting role in Chelsea,” queried a journalist who preferred anonymity.
“Look at Messi, Mikel, Ahmed Musa, they all showed unwavering commitment to their national teams, but our Victor Moses who is a bundle of talents decided not to do his best because he was redeployed from his offensive position that he played during the qualifiers to a wingback position at the World Cup.
“Ahmed Musa was stripped of his captain’s band, but he did not allow that to affect him, what of Mikel, he was also redeployed to the defensive midfield position, but he even contributed more to the team” noted the source.
But this was not the scenario painted by Rohr before playing Argentina. “Victor Moses is fit, committed, work hard in training. He plays the same position in Chelsea. “They (Moses and Mikel) agree to make a sacrifice. They want to play offensively, but agree to do the dirty job for the team which is good for Nigeria.”
But contrary was the case, as it was only Mikel of the two who truly did the dirty job for the team.
Rohr selection also left much to be desired. Of all the midfielders, the only creative one was Mikel Obi. And when he was redeployed to the defensive position, the only creative midfielder left in the team was Alex Iwobi.
But the new formation of 3-5-2 after the 2-0 loss to Croatia took him out. So the team was left struggling most time. They were not creative, not adventurous.
But was that the case against Argentina? Of course no. The team created several scoring chances but poor marksmanship robbed the team of victory.
Odion Ighalo was the greatest culprit. He fluffed two good opportunities that would have put the team ahead.
Ejiro-Oghene Edema, a Mechanical Engineering student at the Western Michigan University, USA posited thus, “Nigeria should have won the game 4-2 if our players know how to put the ball in the net. We should not have lost the game. I watched the match we threw the game away.”
The implication of this is that we did not have a team capable of reaching the second round.
Chief Segun Odegbami (MON), a former Super Eagles captain and Africa Cup of Nations winner in 1980, summarized the team adventure in Russia thus, “The journey has ended. For Nigeria and for Nigerians the World Cup adventure is over. Even without playing well the Super Eagles could have run away with a victory or a draw at least.
“The inexperience of some players at key moments, the coach who ran out of ideas about how to manage the last 10 minutes of a match that was not really difficult, and the reality that the best effort by the Super Eagles was just not good enough on the night, made the end rather painful and sobering.”
Source: Daily Independent