The players were blamed for the team’s failure in the World Cup playoffs, but their performance for their clubs shows that they were not the problem.
It is no longer news that Nigeria will not play at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year. The three-time African champions missed out on qualification after they were knocked out by Ghana in the playoffs via the away goals rule.
The Black Stars held Nigeria to a 1-1 draw at the Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abuja after a goalless draw at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi.
Nigeria failed to secure World Cup qualification in Abuja after playing a 1-1 draw against Ghana
As expected, blames were traded, with the coach and players at the receiving end of criticisms. The players received most of the blame, with players like Joe Aribo and Samuel Chukwueze singled out.
Samuel Chukwueze (L) and Joe Aribo (R)
Ex-international Daniel Amokachi tried to blame players born in the diaspora, leaving out Eguavoen.
However, suppose there is anything to learn following the team’s failure, it is that Eguavoen should be held accountable for the team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup.
After the disappointment, all the players returned to their respective clubs, and their performances have been in stark contrast to the one against Ghana.
This proves that Eguavoen failed to get the best out of these players. Many have said that this is the Super Eagles’ best set of players since the 1994 golden generation.
The truth is a squad may have a collection of talented individuals, but without a qualified coach, they will not function as a team.
It is one thing to have a group of talented players, it is another thing to fit them into the proper structure.
Under Eguavoen, in his short spell, Nigeria had no structure. Critics may want to argue that the team played well in the group stages of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, but the performance was down to the players’ individual brilliance.
Austin Eguavoen at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations
While there is nothing wrong with having individual brilliance in a squad, it should not replace the job of a coach, which is to get the best out of the collective.
Eguavoen failed to do this. He played players like Aribo out of position. Aribo for Nigeria is a stark contrast to the one that plays for Rangers.
The 25-year-old was back to his best for the Gers last weekend, scoring a beautiful curler.
It showed that Aribo was never the problem for Nigeria, but the way Eguavoen used him was the problem.
Chukwueze’s performance for Villarreal this season also showed why Eguavoen deserved the blame for Nigeria’s failure.
The 22-year-old was criticised for his lack of end product at the AFCON and in the first leg against Ghana, yet he has scored six goals in 29 games for Villarreal this season.
Although there is still room for improvement, his numbers for Villarreal this season suggest that his lethargic performance for Nigeria was down to Eguavoen.
It is not just these two players. Players like Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho have also been impressive for their clubs in recent games.
All these factors show that Eguavoen had no idea how to get the best of the talented players he had at his disposal.
And it is even more ridiculous that the 56-year-old has refused to accept his tactical limitations as the reason for the team’s poor performance.
But whether he wants to accept it or not, the fact is that Eguavoen is a poor coach who should never have gotten the job in the first place.
The players’ performances at their clubs prove that. It is now left to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to appoint a coach that can get the best out of this talented group of players.