The 32nd Edition of the African Cup of Nations is arguably one of the biggest masterpieces in African sports. The Biennial continental football tournament was scheduled to be hosted by Cameroon, but was stripped of these rights due to insecurity and Anglophone crises the hosting rights was transferred to Egypt.
In this year’s Edition for the first time we had 24 teams vying for one of the most celebrated trophies in the African Continent. The tournament was filled with intrigues and breath taking moments, upsets and comebacks, unbelievable misses and clinical finishes. It was in short a delightful viewing experience.
The super Eagles of Nigeria finished as third best team winning bronze medal at the expense of Tunisia who gave Senegal a tough time in their semi-final round. Eventual champions Algeria were not favorite’s but Mahrez’s antics was enough to ginger the team to victory. No doubt they had a formidable team and were impressive all through the tournament.
The super Eagles who fielded a very young side, with the average age being 23 years showed so much promise. Owing to the fact that our team B was equally as good as the first team. There was a solid replacement for every player who made the first team. The Coach had selection problems throughout the tournament, and was under immense pressure to field certain players.
With this introduction above. I will explore the Super Eagles team, the Coach’s philosophy, game play, strategy, style, the players, their strengths and weakness, how they managed a winning formula and the draw backs that ensured they did not make it to the final even after knocking out the defending champions in a grand fashion.
1. Success is a win at a time:
The Super Eagles Coach Gernot Rohr showed us how to behave when everything is going smoothly. During his press briefing with the press he never spoke in a manner that hinted that the opposing team was inferior. He always praised his opponents and showed so much respect for the team and the quality of the player.
In business a level head, moderate expectations with attention to details can be the quality that stands you out from your competitors. Businesses who feel they have arrived or are satisfied with their progress will in no time be out of business. While a business that try to improve, innovate and acquire new technology and services will continue to evolve.
2. Never be too sure of your strengths:
As the saying goes the only thing permanent is ‘CHANGE’ and people who embrace it will enjoy the fruit thereof. That said after a convincing win against Burundi and Guinea the Super Eagles and the fans alike started to believe in themselves and their chances of lifting the trophy. This somewhat impeded the teams focus as a result lost horribly to little unknown Madagascar by 2 goals and crashed out in the Semi-final to Algeria thanks to a curling free kick by Mahrez at the nick of time.
When analyzing your SWOT, while it’s good to play to your strengths and down mitigate your weaknesses. It is equally ill advised to overestimate your abilities. Especially when your competitor is new and has little experience. Their inexperience can be an advantage because they will be more susceptible to falling forward as opposed to being risk averse.
3. Your competition can be a blessing in disguise:
One of the most intriguing matches in the just concluded African Cup of Nations was the match between Bafana Bafana of South Africa and hosts Egypt. This in my opinion was the biggest upset of the tournament. Pundits and football students had proclaimed Egypt favorites at the expense of Senegal, Cameroon and Nigeria. South Africa with an unknown starting line-up were able to eliminate Egypt. The game was so intense, and to enjoy the match you had to literally sit at the edge of your seat. South Africa’s victory secured a place for the Super Eagles at the semis. I was of the opinion that If Nigeria met Egypt with Mohammed Salah who is arguably one of the best football players in Africa we would have been eliminated at the Quarter finals.
Every business has competitors some are there not for our harm but for our protection and growth. They shield us from other competitors who have more senile tendencies towards us. From the ordinary we see them as unrefined, too crass and inconsequential but their presence widens the margin that keeps you profiting because they ward off other competitors to advance your interest.
4. Have a contingency plan (Even when the numbers add up):
In the introduction to my write up I stated that Super Eagles coach had a selection dilemma as there were players who he was under pressure to field. This could be a gift and a curse depending on how you manage the situation. For the Super Eagles gaffer I believe he made the best use of his players to the best of his ability. Even though reading through various write-ups and comments during the competition, many called for his removal. He put his resources to uttermost use as the substitutions were near perfection and the positions being filled were in dire need of replacement.
Never underestimate the power of planning, there is an old saying which goes thus; ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’. In essence even though your sales are up, your balance sheet and cash flow accounts have been reconciled. Inventory has been stock piled for the next 3 – 6 months and your tax bills have been sorted. You should still set aside a rainy day fund, this not only secures you in the event of a miscellaneous event. But also gives you a buffer and needed confidence to go into the marketplace bullish.
5. Practice your victory dance:
It would be undesirable for you to go into any tournament without first learning how you will jubilate when you are victorious. This not only serves as a motivation but also helps you keep focus. We saw games where Ighalo, after scoring a goal makes a run to the corner flank and raises his hands to the heavens. He did not make the gesture coincidentally, he had practiced it year, after year, after year.
Don’t wait to be successful before you start living a successful life, you may not have all the resources you need for your business right away but keep the dream alive. Print a business card, register a company, design a business logo etc. It may seem like you are not making progress but all the movement in the right direction was the capacity you were building for a solid business foundation.
6. Distractions Distractions Distractions:
It’s very unlikely that anyone who intends to go far in the journey of life will pay attention to side comments and frivolities. After the Super Eagles last group stage match loss to Madagascar, it was like all hell should break loose and the Super Eagles head coach be relieved of his coaching duties. There were all sorts of complaints about his tactical prowess, his selection and team formation. I am sure some of these comments got to him as some of his coaching crew members would also share the same views. However without any comment from him, he brushed off the negative feedback and went on to defeat Cameroon the reigning Champions which is judged by me as one of the biggest comebacks of the tournament.
Never lose sight of what’s important, give ear to what your competition is saying but pay mind to what your customers are saying. In the end it doesn’t really matter. What matters most are the results you have to show for your hard-work.
7. You cannot hurry time:
During the course of the AFCON tournament some matches you want to run down the clock while some you’ll be hopeful for an extra 5 minutes and if possible 30 minutes. But usually doesn’t turn out that way. Most times events in the match could also affect the extra time given, for example an injury, VAR decision. When you are a goal down you want the clock to freeze, however when you are a goal up, you can’t wait to run out the clock. However one thing is for certain we have no control over these outcomes, we can only pray that the players perform to their uttermost abilities to gain the upper hand.
Always put your best foot forward could be your right or left. Mahrez scored a left footed free-kick that knocked Nigeria out of the tournament seconds to the end of regulation time. A 5 minutes extra time was not enough for the Super Eagles to reply to Mahrez’s long range onslaught. In essence always be prepared, your competition is constantly looking for ways to outwit you. They will stop at nothing by any means, either ethical, or unethical.
8. Match your competition (Strength, tactic, skill):
The Super Eagles were favourites to win this year’s continental African trophy as they had a well-rounded and formidable team. They boasted of 7-9 forwards, the mid-field was solid like-wise the defense. But we had in-experienced goal keepers. This was our undoing, as Mahrez’s converted his last gasp winner as a result of an ill-positioned Daniel Akpeyi. The Super Eagles after the exit of Vincent Enyeama, have required the services of up to 5 goal keepers in 3 years. Things were getting better till Carl Ikeme went down with leukemia and the search for a new stopper ensued. Coincidently we lacked a decisive play-maker like Victor Moses who knows how to take good free kicks. Throughout the tournament all our spot kicks were blasted far and wide, no experience or direction on the ball.
In business dealings don’t do the right thing because it’s convenient and when it’s not convenient you rescind your support for such decisions. If you must succeed in business you need to have an open-mind devoid of sentiments. Sentiment blinds you from seeing things which are harmful to you as well as limiting your vision which impedes progress.
9. If it isn’t broken don’t fix it:
Weeks before the start of the African Cup of Nations there were already side talks about the credentials of the German tactician Gernot Rohr. Comparing him with past coaches who had achieved success for the National team. Some argued mostly that he did not know how to spot talents, talk-less utilize them. The call for his sack grew even louder when the Super Eagles lost to Madagascar on their last Group B qualifying encounter. However the Super Eagles with the help of Gernot Rohr’s brilliance made it as far as finishing third, winning the golden boot and Ighalo making the team of the tournament. By all standard this is impressive for a team that hasn’t qualified for the African Cup of Nations since lifting the trophy in South Africa as far back as 2013.
Firstly don’t compare your business to another business, which is the recipe for disaster. You will lose sight of your uniqueness and start trying to be like your competitor to the point that you will start to resent them. Once that comes into play there is no limit to how far the mind can go to get what it wants. But the draw-back with this is that the business will never be coherent, because even after you acquire your new identity you will forever be a copy not an original (your competition). So in essence stay within your limits and work according to the hand that is dealt to you. Your business has its own dynamic peculiarities and competitive advantage, knowing how to unearth, exploit and utilize them is the key to unlock the financial potentials of any business.
10. Every team member is equally as important:
You may not believe it but only one or two players who were shortlisted for the Super Eagles AFCON 2019 squad played an active role in the success of the team finishing third place and winning bronze medal in the process. I mentioned earlier in point 4 above, that the Super Eagles gaffer was spoilt for choice. However he did not let it get to his head or play favouritism. Each player had their chance at the right time when he deemed fit, at the right match he used the right players to achieve his aims changing formations and matching them up in a manner where they complimented each other and were not rivals. A good example that comes to mind is Chukwueze’s introduction which brought out the attacking Flair in Iwobi. Both players teaming up was a joy to watch, many will agree that we’ll love to see more of those promising lads.
In business we need to apply the 5 Ps of marketing in the right mix to achieve our business goals. It is equally important to note that it is not possible for every employee in your business to get the same result or make as much progress as the other. Nevertheless their contribution one way or the other is valuable. The janitor is as important and the Manager and vice-versa, they might not earn the same salary or have the same quality of life but they should be treated fairly and equitably. This might sound a little derogatory however even a pest has its nuisance value.
11. There are good days, bad days and match days:
On arrival in Egypt for the 32nd Edition of the African Cup of Nations, the super Eagles embarked on a journey to bring home the AFCON 2019 trophy. However during these period there were a series of event that took place. Some related to their purpose of being in Egypt and others totally unconnected however still played a part on their over-all performance in the tournament. There was sight-seeing, press conferences, visits to orphanages, trainings and match briefings, the salary saga, the NFF corruption saga, the calls for Rohr’s resignation, and celebrations of their third place finish and eventual return to Nigeria. Through all this if one of the important players decide that he would not play a crucial match because his hotel room a/c isn’t cooling the way he wants. This might be a valid reason but that singular decision may jeopardize the whole essence of the team being in Egypt. So no matter the weather condition when called on to be on the team and contribute your quota always stand up to be counted. If you don’t want to play a part on the team, don’t go down to Egypt.
In our daily business dealings your staff/co-worker/colleague/superior/sub-ordinate may come up with cogent excuses of which if you think critically about it are tenable and on the face value can be waived. However looking at it more critically you will see that there was no basis for them making such decision or taking such step apart from the fact that the person in question was selfish and overzealous. However as I said in point 10 above “This might sound a little derogatory however even a pest has its nuisance value”.