With the conclusion of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON, Nigeria’s footballing gaze now shifts towards the future, particularly the impending 2026 World Cup Qualifiers against South Africa and Benin Republic in June.
One burning question lingers about the key areas Super Eagles manager Jose Peseiro must bolster to ensure success on the international stage.
Also, the quest for legendary Nigeria goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama’s successor in the Super Eagles squad finally reached its resolution following Stanley Nwabali’s display at the 2023 AFCON in Ivory Coast.
Society watch recalls that Nigeria lost 2-1 to Ivory Coast in the final of the 2023 AFCON played on Sunday night.
Ivory Coast came from behind to beat the Super Eagles, thanks to second-half goals from Franck Kessie and Sebastien Haller.
Captain William Troost-Ekong scored for Nigeria in the first half.
However, as Nigeria prepares for the arduous journey ahead, strategic planning, astute recruitment, and meticulous preparation will be pivotal in overcoming obstacles and realizing its aspirations of World Cup qualification.
Peseiro and his coaching staff face a formidable task, but with the right approach and unwavering determination, the Super Eagles can soar to new heights on the international stage.
Society watch reports that the post-AFCON puzzle presents a myriad of priorities, including key areas to improve, from solidifying the goalkeeping position to fine-tuning tactical strategies and nurturing young talents.
Speaking on the subject matter on Monday, Ochiba Football Club coach, Emmanuel Brown said the Super Eagles under Peseiro need to improve the midfield.
According to Brown, Peseiro must identify players capable of dictating play and maintaining possession in the midfield area.
“I must confess that it [AFCON 2023] was a good outing for the Super Eagles. I never expected Nigeria to reach the final. One thing that is constant in life is change.
“The Super Eagles midfield has been the problem. The defence is OK; the attack is OK. I think the Super Eagles need to work on their midfield more,” Brown said.
“Talking about the goalkeeping department, the new goalkeeper [Stanley Nwabali] has done well for himself. But he was a bit of a disappointment in the AFCON final. But that is the game: you win some and lose some.
“Talking about moving forward, I think that the midfield needs to be completely overhauled. The Super Eagles handlers need to visit that midfield and make sure they do something about it.
“Nigeria has some midfielders playing in the Premier League. Somebody like Crystal Palace’s Eze, I wonder, while that kind of a player cannot be in the Super Eagles midfield, there is another player that plays in Germany too, so I wonder why these players are not invited to the Super Eagles.
“Talking about our midfield, it’s so disappointing that Iwobi has to just mess himself up the way he did against Ivory Coast in the final.
“Well, I think he plays from the right side of the midfield from his club, and it is not a bad one for him; he has gotten his only chance and done decently well on the team. I think moving forward, they should just work on the Super Eagles midfield, and the team will be good to go.”
Charles Ogundiya of New Telegraph also said the left-back and the midfield areas need to be improved going forward
“Apart from the first match against Equatorial Guinea and the last match against Cote d’Ivoire, it has been a progression for the team.
“You can see that the team really improved from their first match going into the last match. But obviously, the boys were cold yesterday [Sunday]. It shows the technical capability of the two sides. Now, looking at Nigeria, we had difficulty in the middle of the park, and that has been the problem of the team for so long,” Ogundiya said
“The midfield has not really been doing well in terms of getting the ball up to the front. What kept the Super Eagles going until the last stage happened to be the defence.
“It didn’t come as a big surprise when the captain of the team, William [Troost-Ekong], was named the best player of the competition. Troost-Ekong, Ajayi, and Bassey tried their best at the back of the park, holding forth and helping the goalkeeper, and that happens to be the saving grace for the Super Eagles.
“You can imagine Osimhen coming to the middle almost every time to look for the ball. You will see Osimhen come back to defend corner kicks. This is somebody who is supposed to be upfront waiting for the ball, but he is not getting the supply that he should be getting that would make him get the goals needed.
“I think going forward, the Super Eagles need to get a playmaker, something that can get the ball even with three defenders on him.
“You can imagine a player in Austin Okocha’s mode. Okocha will wiggle his way out of anything, anytime. The Super Eagles need somebody who has a vision for passes, somebody who can draw defenders to himself and free the way for others.
“I think that is the most important thing for the Eagles. They have been able to solve the issue of goalkeeping partially with Nwabali coming into the team. Also, the pairing of Semi Ajayi and Troost-Ekong has been fantastic. Another area the Super Eagles need to work on is Sanusi’s position.
“He had so many opportunities during the competition. He was in very crucial and good positions during the competition, but he missed most of his opportunities. Crossing zero, shot on target zero. That happens to be one of the Super Eagles’ problems. So if they can get the right players in those places, then they are good to go.”
When asked if Nwabali has what it takes to fill Enyeama’s shoes, Ogundiya added, “People keep forgetting that there was a particular goalkeeper that came after Vincent Enyeama, and that is Carl Ikeme. Carl Ikeme was the answer to the Super Eagles’ goalkeeping problem. It was so unfortunate that he had that disease that stopped him from playing football.
“I am telling you he was a perfect replacement for Enyeama. But looking at Nwabali. Nwabali has shown that he has what it takes to mount that post for the Super Eagles. He was there for the team during the AFCON and don’t forget that this is a player who, a few months ago, was playing for Enyimba in Nigeria before moving to South Africa, and they feel that nothing good will come out of the local league.
“This guy has shown that we have players that can play. The Super Eagles need players who have a heart for Africa, and that is what Nwabali has done.
“Yes, he made his mistakes too, but at least he saved the day, and that is the important thing. Enyeama, too, had his own ups and downs during his time. So, it is common for goalkeepers.
“For me, the Super Eagles need to look for someone to compete with him. So that in case of injury, there will be somebody to replace him. Just like when the team used to have the likes of Rufai, Ike Shorunmu, Enyeama, and Austin Ejide, let’s have that kind of competition in the goalkeeping department.”
When asked to suggest the goalkeeper that should provide competition for Nwabali, Ogundiya said, “Adebayo Adeleye, who currently plays his club football at Israeli club, Hapoel Jerusalem. I think the only problem Adeleye is having with the current coach of the Super Eagles is probably his height.
Adeleye has what it takes to compete with Nwabali and let the Super Eagles’ handlers continue to give opportunity to local goalkeepers like Ojo of Enyimba and co.”