“We will shed blood on the pitch”… “It is 3 points or nothing”…. “We will cage the Algerians”… Those are the regular tabloids headlines going into any Super Eagles game. The fans are very used to these screaming headlines and have learnt to take them with a pinch of salt. Talking about positivity, that is not what we are talking about. There is just this feeling of confidence going into the match against Algeria, a team ranked 3rd in Africa, a team filled with quality players in many positions. For a team that has not qualified for the last two AFCONs. There is this positive feeling that was not there initially, not just about the match but the qualifiers in general. So, what has changed?
Fewer or no controversies in the team
Controversy has become the second name of the Super Eagles in recent years; there is always one controversial issue or the other. Maybe the kudos for this has to go the Technical adviser, Gernot Rohr. Our most recent coaches always have one issue or the other with some players and/or the NFF. The burst-up between the last substantive coach – Sunday Oliseh and former captain – Vincent Enyeama comes to mind. That was the start of the negativity that clouded that era, which arguably culminated in the Super Eagles failure to make it to Gabon 2017. Maybe to Rohr’s credit or it’s been down to some other factors but we’ve rarely seen or heard about the coach having issues with players and the NFF. This can only raise the level of positivity. We have also gone past the era of Youtube videos (no sub intended).
Emergence of “World class” youngsters
Maybe terming them World-class might be too early or exaggerated but Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi have the abilities to really earn the title. Both feature for two of the biggest English teams and have shown glimpses of exciting footballing qualities. Both put in impressive displays in the last match against Zambia and got the two goals that won the match. Having two of the most exciting attacking prospects in the game will only bring a feel good factor to any team.
Another factor and maybe to credit Gernot Rohr. It is difficult to argue that the players he has called up are the best available to the country at this moment. Gone were the days when some players doing well and meriting call-ups are conspicuously left out of the team. There was a clamor for John Ogu and he has been invited. In time past, some names make it to the team obviously for reasons other than merit.
Mikel Obi as captain
To Mikel Obi’s credit and quite surprisingly too, he has taken to the job of the Super Eagles captain impressively. He has become an inspiration to the younger players. His becoming the captain has also doused any controversy that may have arisen from the initial selection of Ahmed Musa. As the most capped and arguably most experienced player in the team, he looks like the perfect and less controversial choice. More importantly, he is saying the right things. We only hope he sorts his issue of playing time soon to make it all perfect.
This may be the most important factor after all. No matter what goes on right, if the team is not winning, negativity takes over. Starting the qualifiers with a win away has lifted the morale of the team. Considering the fact that winning away has been very difficult in recent years, starting a World Cup qualifier series with an away win has inspired confidence. It now becomes imperative for the Super Eagles to build on that with another victory against Algeria, else all this positivity goes out the window in the twinkle of an eye.
Written by Babatomiwa Ojo- follow him on Twitter @10Qmedia