Super Eagles and Changchun Yatai striker, Odion Ighalo, is remorseful but bold in his appraisal of the team’s performance at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and a painful exit from the tournament through the 2-1 defeat to Argentina in their last Group D match on Tuesday, June 26 2018. Completesportsportnigeria.com’s NNAMDI EZEKUTE was at the Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg and captured his mood in this interview. Excerpts…
What was the experience of playing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup like?
First and foremost, I want to thank God for an injury-free World Cup outing in Russia. Out of almost 200 million Nigerians, It’s a privilege to represent the country at the World Cup.
However, It’s sad that we went out in a bad way, losing to Argentina in our decisive last group match. It was a sad day for me, sad day for the team and a sad day for the country.
We deserved more in the match. We had a penalty which the referee didn’t give us. I also missed a couple of scoring chances that could have won the game for us. That’s football for us. Sometimes you lose like this and sometimes you win.
I want to apologise to my teammates and to Nigerians for the loss. I take responsibility for those goals missed. It has happened, and we all should put that behind us and move forward.
Did anyone criticise you in the dressing room for the missed goals?
No, no one criticised me in the dressing room. You know it’s team work. We were 23 players fighting to make Nigerians proud. No one in the team blamed me for the loss. Even if anyone has criticised me, I would take it in good faith. Criticism is part of football. As a footballer, if you don’t take criticisms and handle them in positive manner, then you’re not doing your job well. So, I’m ready to take whatever criticism that may come upon me now because of Nigeria defeat to Argentina. I believe that life has to go on despite what happened. Life won’t end here. I believe that I have better days ahead.
Take the Super Eagles’ loss to Argentina aside, what is your opinion about the overall performance of the team in Russia?
I am very proud of this team because we have been united and working together. No problem of any kind in the team.
We put up a great fight against Argentina, from the beginning to the end. It is my sincere wish that we continue going forward with this great team unity. We have great young talents who will make this team stronger in future. We have a better future with this team.
Are you disappointed not scoring in your first World Cup after turning out well for Changchun Yatai in the Chinese Super League?
I gave it my best shot, but it’s not always about goals. Yes, every striker wants his name on the scoresheet to fully justify his selection. However, playing for the team team to win is better than any other personal goal. We worked hard together as a team in Russian, but it is sad that we couldn’t reach the Second Round of the tournament. That’s my only regret. I am happy being selected to represent about 200 million Nigerians. We can get better as a team representing the country in future competitions.
Your fans are anticipating your return to a bigger league in Europe following your impressive output so far for Changchun Yatai. What is in the offing for you in this regard?
I am happy at my club. Everything is fine. Yes, a switch that will make everyone happy will be done at the right time. That’s what I can say now about it. I said earlier that I believe there is a better future for me. That’s my belief too about the Super Eagles and my teammates at club level. I’m positive about this. We have very good young players.Copyright © 2022 Completesports.com All rights reserved. The information contained in Completesports.com may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the prior written authority of Completesports.com.
Apology accepted Mr Ighalo, you are human. I like people that accept their mistakes and correct them. You are a good player, it just that finishing has been your weakness right from your U-20 days. Work on your weakness and shame your critics, and thanks for your service.
It’s good he accepted but is he going to correct them?? Maybe Simi or iwobi would have done better. Sometimes I wonder if he is under a curse not to score.
I am the laughing stock of this forum because I kept faith with this guy.
What a let down of epic proportions!
Forgive IGHALO pls! Dude has apologised! Blame Coach Rohr! He killed us against CROATIA and Argentina with wrong tactics and organisation and choice of players!
Against Argentina Rohr failed to park the bus when it’s 5mins left you quickly freshen up the TEAM with defensive substitutions but he was clueless!
John ogu should have been brought in together with awazien but as usual waited until too late. Our coach is old. Pls its time siasia is properly brought on BOARD. Siasia na tournament coach!
He knows all our PLAYERS everywhere and their QUALITY.
Pls read on…
LESSON LEARNT IN RUSSIA 2018.
The heartache, the talking points, the bitter disappointment that our Eagles are out of the World Cup after so much hope that this is the set that will top the other sets.
If there’s anything we can take from this World Cup disappointment, it’s that we need to start planning for the future and that future and planning has to start now, has to start with the current U15s, U17s and U20s.
This article isn’t just aimed at Nigeria, it’s aimed at our continent, as I write only Senegal have a hope of going to the next round as the remaining four African countries are already out.
This is a reference for us to look into the mirror and ask ourselves why we never succeed at major tournaments over the age of 17.
Why our continent and country keeps doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result.
What truly do Europeans, South Americans and Asians do differently from us that makes them successful at World Cups?
They build from the ground up, don’t take shortcuts at youth levels and they definitely don’t cheat with over aged players we’ve always done because they understand that building a successful football program isn’t about winning the U17s at all, it’s about developing player from the U13s and up, making sure those players are training at clubs that emphasizes technique, getting playing time at clubs in Europe.
No disrespect to Turkey or China but we need players playing at leagues where technique will be developed.
Not many graduates of our U17s get to play in Europe and most that do never have old, long careers in Europe and that’s not their fault- often, bad agents pushing them towards big clubs for big fees and forgetting that these players don’t have the foundation that European layers have.
They don’t have coaches teaching them and engraining in their DNA the fundamentals of modern world football, after these players make a splash at the U17 World Cups, they get loaned out indefinitely until they fizzle out and end up in Turkey, Cyprus, Greece or stop all together.
These are facts, pull up the roster of our last five U17 squads with a simple google search and Wikipedia.
How many of those players are currently playing first team football in top leagues in Europe? How many have had sustained careers in Europe since their move ?
There lies our issue, it starts from the ground, what are our kids being taught vs what are European kids being taught.
Who is doing the teaching and what do they know from training and experience about the fundamentals of football and there would lie the answer.
At the NFF, we actually have a true lover of grassroots football in Barrister Akinwunmi who by all accounts is working hard to change our football culture – we can already see with what he did with the U15s in friendlies in Morocco- win, lose or draw- played with young players- that’s vision, that’s looking at the long term because experiences like that for truly young players (real U15s) is a down payment on the future.
Then this same visionary espoused view of reading a synergy from U13s all the way up to the senior National team with the NFF/Zenith Bank Future Eagles Championship.
That is the foundation to future World Cup successes, not using over aged player to get short term gains and suffer for it in the future.
Then this same visionary in barrister Akinwunmi also captured one of the most exciting players young players in Lateef Omidiji Jr, a player already in a position in Europe hat many senior players dream of, a player already touted by many scouts and club directors in Europe as one of the future of football.
For all our criticisms of the NFF, the players, the coach, my people, we need to look at ourselves. This article might offend some, might bother some but if that is the price for starting a real conversation that could save us heartaches in the future then so be it.
We are all Africans, it’s time to have a frank conversation with ourselves for the befit of our future, for the benefit of our children, for the benefit of a sport that we all love, for the benefit of our continents inhabitants.
Football is more than a sport here on our continent, football is a religion here, it’s a release from all the pressures of living here, it’s an escape from our failed governments, it’s a stress reliever and dare I say- football is a part of our identity.
We can talk about the poor officiating and bias and those are valid conversations but if we don’t get our house in order, we will continue the same cycle of failure, disappointment and talking points which his hire a coach, go to the Nations Cup, lose, get rid of hosts of players who came through our U17s overaged and were never taught basic foundation and principles and to be honest are not up to there with the best in the world technically or tactically.
We fire a coach, hire another for the World Cup, qualify and do it all over again. Such has been our cycle as far back as I can remember.
The money we’ve spent on this gallant set of super Eagles, imagine investing some in our youth football just 5% of it, the return will be immense.
It means more international friendlies (even if it’s African countries and some European tournaments) for our U13s, U15s and U17s, it means potentially unearthing true aged players now that can be wildcards and intriguing possibilities for the World Cup in Qatar 2022.
It means having a National U16 squad to be a synergy to our U17s so the pressure to be older, bigger, stronger and faster as criteria for the U17s is no longer there, it means hiring a coach for our U13s, U15s and U17s that is qualified, teach players technique, tactics and laying a foundation for the future.
Investing 5% of the money we just spent on the Eagles on our youth means developing a playing style and template early and implanting it in players early so that when we get to the senior levels, there will be no arguments about formation or style, the world will see, identify and know Nigerian Football.
It means buying a bone scan machine for our youth program and not just relying on ‘birth certificates and passports or in some cases size and what they look like so that we can truly cleanse our youth programs and start from the ground up.
I know it isn’t an easy task in a country where we want results right away, where we need to win because we believe we are Brazil, well newsflash we are not, we are Nigeria with a lot of talent at home and abroad but a lot of cracks in or foundation.
Brazilian kids, name any Brazilian star in Europe, all come through real academies in Brazil and nurtured through real academies and real coaches who know their stuff,.
The coaches are in tune with world football, know what to teach, how to teach and who to teach by identifying true talent, not the coaches we have parading themselves around who cannot technically and tactically outwit European coaches.
Let’s identify good coaches at grassroots, stop the north, south politics, find coaches that are passionate about coaching, accept that they are limited in knowledge, accept responsibility that it’s not their fault its ours, it’s the system we’ve created and accepted, send those coaches on training courses abroad, assign them to our U13s.
Invest in them and send them overseas to train, earn UEFA licenses, have them be a part of our U13s, U15s and U17s who should now regularly be playing African, European, American, South American and Asian friendlies and tournaments (all these countries would love to play teams from Nigeria because of our dominance at youth levels) and eventually these coaches would be the future handlers of our youth and senior teams because of the training investment and international experience they’ll have.
In doing so, it requires patience from the public, understanding that those countries we see succeeding on the global stage have a foundation, have a method, have a system and they don’t win U17 tournaments because that’s all a learning experience to prepare players for the future.
Let us accept that we will lose games now but be setup to succeed in the future. Let’s dead the noise about having the youngest team in the World Cup so that we can truly start planning. We know, we don’t, Europeans know it too, so let’s stop deceiving ourselves because no one outside of Africa believes it either.
Let’s look in the mirror because the fact is it’s not just Nigeria that use overaged players because that seems to be what you have to do to compete within Africa but when we get to the World Cup, it’s a different ball game.
It is time my people to look inward, have a frank conversation about our youth, our passion, our future, our children, our football, let’s destroy and rebuild, we will never get anywhere in world football until that is done.
Qatar 2022 is right around the corner, let’s get to work now!
New Nff or old Nff pls start planning now!
You get time shall, even you writing this don’t you get tired?
Apology accepted with all my heart, Mr. Ighalo. l believe that l criticized you, perhaps, far more than many folks in this place but today, by your own sincere apology, and publicly too, you melted my heart. l sincerely apologize also to you as a person of Nigerian decent Player who wanted all Nigerians to be happy when ever he is on the field of play. Your civility, your condor and perhaps, your up bringing shows through by this apology. Yes, life goes on my fellow Edo son. Hoping one day, you and l will meet on personal level, you will realize how close we are in terms of personal identity. That is soccer for you bro. l Love you.
Dr. B.O. Aghedo
What happened in the Argentina match is not peculiar to Ighalo . For more than 10years the super eagles have not produced strikers that knows how to score goals frequently.
The problem of the super Eagle is mainly from strikers who score only 1 out of 10 clear chances .
My friend said that Nigeria will win Argentina and I asked him who will score the goal. He replied Musa so I asked him how many goals did Musa score in his club this season and he became speechless.
Rohr had been singing like a sparrow: the team is too young, we’re in Russia for the experience, … preparing the team for 2022. Let’s not fall for his ruse. These statements were prefabricated to cover his impending failure. Rohr is clueless about modern football and should be released immediately. SiaOne must be drafted ASAP.
Ighalo should go and start playing as a defensive midfielder to avoid more insults coz striking is not is thing anymore
You’re spot on. We can accept apologies but Ighalo’s care free attitude during matches, apologies not accepted. It was Ighalo’s first work cup and perhaps his last in naija’s colors. And, it is pathetic to blame the coach! Why? The game against Argentina was there to be won by Naija, there is nothing special about the Argentine team even with their talisman. Super Eagles we’re not just up for it on the day. The players should share the blame. I’m pretty sure no one will blame NFF, the players should be accountable and responsible for their on-the-field actions. At least they attest to the fact that preparation was top notch so the question should be “what else is lacking in the team in anticipation for next World Cup in Quarter.” This World Cup failure should be a collective responsibility shared by the team, players should not be exonerated. Some of them had chances to step up to the next level but failed the team. Overall, it wasn’t bad performance from the team. However, i’m certain this team had more chances to make it out of the group ahead of Argentina. The second spot was there to be taken.
Mrs Igalo we dont want ur apologies… u are not good enough and i blame rohr for carrying u to this worldcup… u are a failure a failure and u rubbed it on a team that worked so hard only for u and ur lack of quality to let ur team and entire nation down. Noo ma… we dont need ur useless ooportunity like ur name.. we need ur retirement frm d super eagles.
Pls why fid complete sports interview dz fiasco.. he aint sorry for wat he has done.. his time on dt nigeria shirt is over.. i thought he was announcing his retirement..
Rohr can go with him too pls…
How would I blamed you Ighalo instead, I blamed Mr. Rohr for his tactics and he must go. Putting Simy on the bench throughout the Nigeria three matches and he also played unfit Iheanacho while Iwobi was watching the game on the bench. I am suspecting this coach for his attitude in this on going world cup. He killed the game by himself.
What is the purpose of FIFA?
The referees in this year world cup Are questionable. It is very cleared that aside from European and American teams, African and Asian teams are going to every world cup to just make a number. Therefore, they did everything to kicked Nigeria team out of the world cup. However, C7 of Portugal deserves a red card in their last match, the referee stopped the match and went to watched VAR VIDEO and he saw it so well and instead of picking a Red card, the referee decided to give Ronaldo a Yellow card. Even, after the match, journalists were complaining on that issue and they were showing that part continuously on TV. They were asking that does C7 bigger than the rules and regulations of the game?
Same thing applied to Argentina’ team against Nigeria in their last match. FIFA showed the world that they can bend the rules to attained their goal. Which means, Argentina must stayed in this tournament. To cut the long story short, coach Rohr have tried his best for Nigeria and it’s time for him to go because he has nothing to offer us no more. God bless Nigeria!!!
@ighalo save ur apologies bro we don’t need it,at dis level u r meant to be well prepared n step up ur game ve u ever considered d money spent from qualification series tio d worldcup proper five star hotel 10 + 15k US dollars as match bonus etc u robbed us of our joy n u r here talking trash,we know football is not easy but not when mother luck present u with d opportunity to put smile on our faces n u squandered it,all the same its in the past now pls guys let’s allow GR to continue n access him properly after nations cup 2019.thats my own opinion let’s not disrupt d chemistry of d team for now instead let’s voice out d players we xpect him to invite n d ones to drop,GR is a humble man n listens to advice n correction
I believe the Technical team was bereft of ideas when the Nigerian team was under serious pressure in the last fifteen minutes. 3 key changes would have given us victory over Argentina. Iweobi for Ihenacho, Simeon Nwankwo for Musa and Ebuehi for Moses. Whereas the Argentina Coach was bringing in fresh players to rejuvenate their team Gernot Rohr made his own changes in dying minutes after everything has been lost.
And you think removing those players will not change d balance of the team at that time? Should any of those player be remove n Nigeria still went ahead to loose this same thing u re saying is what many of u will stay. Some was even said he pack d bus. I think that was d same way they play n lost to Croatia yet people blame them. The fact is it doesn’t go our way and let’s move on.