Kadiri Ikhana has pleaded with Nigerians not to condemn the Super Eagles after their 2-1 defeat to the Desert Foxes of Algeria in Sunday’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations semifinal match in Cairo, Completesports.com reports.
Ikhana, a winner of the continent’s most prized silverware in 1980 in Lagos with the then Green Eagles, urges Nigerian football freaks to bear the loss with spirit of sportsmanship and take the positives from the team’s campaign in Egypt, especially the fact that the Gernot Rohr’s charges did their best but were undone by hard luck.
The 2003 CAF Coach of the Year after steering Enyimba to win that year’s CAF champions League – the first by any Nigerian club or coach, believes the squad is one for the future with most of the players still new to such ‘high tempo’ AFCON tournament.
“It is sad that the Super Eagles lost. As a patriotic Nigerian, I feel bad but the reality check is that the semifinal match against Algeria brought to the fore the immaturity of the Super Eagles,” starts Ikhana when he took time to analyse the game to Completesports.com Monday afternoon.
“Many of them have not featured in the Nations Cup before. These players are young and new to each other in the team and are equally young.
“The Africa Cup of Nations is too high for them. They really gave their best under the circumstances and indeed deserve commendation.
“They are a team for the future. It was just hard luck. They did their best, I must confess.
“I would have been surprised to see them in the final. Tactically, they were okay but the attack didn’t function well.”
The former Kano Pillars, Sharks and Sunshine Stars gaffer admits there were lapses in the Super Eagles’ goalkeeping department as well as the defence.
“As a defender, you don’t kick that way at that moment of a game. But then, that is where the issue of exposure comes in.
“The goalkeeper has some blames here because the wall was not properly set and the ball went through the area he had clear view of.
“It would have been different if Mahrez had curled the ball over the wall, but getting it past from the area the goalkeeper was supposed to cover reflects his limitations.
“Like I said earlier, it goes down to lack of exposure and inexperience. But in future, the Super Eagles will be okay because individually, the players have long years ahead of them in the national team.”
By Sab Osuji
(Pix: by Ganiyu Yusuf in Cairo)