Friday, January 25, 2008

What Happened? Nigeria On Brink of Elimination


Nigeria are in serious trouble.

The Super Eagles' African Cup of Nations hopes suffered another blow on Friday after a 0-0 draw with Mali left them floundering in their opening round group.

Nigeria are third in Group B with just a single point, three behind second placed Mali.

The draw sent Ivory Coast, who have six points, into the quarter-finals as the first team to qualify.

Nigeria, despite their star-studded attack, failed for a second straight game to score.

This begs the question: What happened to the Super Eagles?

Is it the coaching of Berti Vogts?
Is the talent pool just not deep enough?
Are the players simply not motivated?
Has the talent of other countries simply caught up to that of Nigeria?

Coming into African football as an outsider, I'd like to know. For years, Nigeria have been seen as the gold standard of the continent's footballing fortunes. But now, they're staggering like a punch-drunk boxer. They can't score, they don't play a free-flowing game and they look lethargic. What happened?

"I know it's not enough to have just one point from two games," said Nigeria's beleaguered coach Berti Vogts.

"We now have only one hope and that is the Ivory Coast and God. But to win we have to score. Our players tried but our final passing was poor. To win you have to score but it was a big problem today and in the last match," he added.

Nigeria's potential progress to the last eight will be out of their hands when Group B is concluded next Tuesday.

The Super Eagles must beat Benin while hope that the Ivorians overcome Mali at the same time. Mali need just a draw to ensure Nigeria depart home early despite having made it to the last four at each of the last four editions of the tournament.

I think it would be a big surprise if Nigeria went home early. The mystery continues ...

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