Big Boss Keshi,A Match Away From Another First
Rating Stephen Keshi as one of the best coach to have handled the Nigerian national side the Super Eagles should not be debated.
Going by his achievement so far since he was named the head coach of the Eagles three years ago, only Dutchman, Clemens Westerhof has achieved what the former Eagles captain has done so far.
As Nigeria’s manager, Westerhof won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994, qualified the team for the mundial and later led the Eagles to the second round of the World Cup held in the USA in the same year.
Already, Keshi has equaled the Dutchman’s African feat by winning the AFCON in South Africa last year and also sealing qualification ticket to the ongoing Brazil 2014 World Cup.
He has by virtue of Wednesday’s qualification of the Eagles for the knockout stage of the ongoing Brazil 2014 World Cup, has equally equaled the feat achieved by Westerhof and Milutinovic who both spearheded the Eagles of 1994 and 1998 to the same stage.
From the domestic scene, Keshi has dwarfed past indigenous coaches who have one time or the other handled the Eagles in terms of achievement.
The likes of Amodu Shuaibu, Adegboye Onigbinde, Austin Eguavoen, Samson Siasisa and other handlers who have been privileged to head the Eagles technical crew did their best without mincing words, only that Keshi had able to churn out results that surpassed what they might have achieved when they were in charge.
It a well established facts that Keshi, remains the only Nigerian coach to lead three different countries to three editions of the AFCON having led Togo, Mali and Nigeria to the African version of the mundial.
Keshi, a former assistant to Amodu Shuaibu became the first Nigerian coach to win the AFCON as previous victories in 1980 on home soil and 1994 at Tunisiia were achieved by expatriate coaches.
Chief Onigbinde led consortium of coaches took the Eagles to the 2002 World Cup jointly staged by Korea and Japan but the Nigerian side which paraded the youngest player of the tournament Femi Opabumi could not advance beyond the group stage having lost 0-1 to Argentina in the opening game, fell 1-2 to Sweden in the second match before holding England to a scoreless draw in the last match.
But Keshi, the second Nigerian man to lead the national team to the mundial has succeeded in piloting the team to the knockout stage.
Besides that, the former Anderlecht of Belgium Libero had already made some other significant impact.
He had succeeded in returning the country’s to winning ways at the mundial as Nigerians have been waiting for an Eagles win since after the 1-0 win of the team over Belgium at France ’98 courtesy of Victor Ikpeba’s goal.
The Eagles’ 1-0 victory over debutant Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Brazil, via Osaze Odemwingie’s goal ended the winless streak.
Come Monday (today), the Super Eagles will file out to confront former World Champions France in one of the second round games of Brazil 2014.
As history beckons on the Eagles in Brazil, Stephen Keshi would be the main man in focus should the Nigerian team succeeds in dispatching the French side and book a quarter final ticket.
Lots of people are waiting to see the Big Boss do this including his former boss Clemens Westrhof.
After winning the AFCON and qualified Nigeria for the World Cup, the Dutchman said he called Keshi and told him. ‘’You are on the same level with Oyibo but now got to the World Cup, get to the next round and then you can say I am better than Westerhof’’.
Nigerians are waiting to see the Eagles fly all the way to the quarter final at the expense of France but the onus of making this possible lies on the shoulder of Keshi, who s facing a day with history and would have his CV enriched with another first should the god of soccer give Nigeria the day against the French side.
Can Eagles Break The Jinx?
For the third time in the history of the country’s participation in the FIFA World Cup, Nigeria will on Monday in Brazil, battle to go beyond the second round stage of the mundial.
As a debutant at USA in 1994, the Super Eagles, managed then by Dutchman, Clemens Westerhof, shocked the world by getting to the knockout stage only to lose out painfully to Italy in an encounter in which the team was coating home to victory before a Roberto Baggio 88th minute equaliser.
That late leveler pushed the game into extra time and a penalty awarded the Azzuris which was converted by Baggio earned the Arigo Sachi tutored Italians victory over the Eagles.
Four years later, France ’98 to be précised, the Nigerian side made it to the knockout stage but that turned out to be the bus stop again as the Eagles, handled by Serbian Bora Milutinovic got more than what they bargained for, losing 1-4 to Denmark to crash out.
Interestingly, France the host country when Nigeria last played in the second round is the country sanding between the Eagles and a record first time qualification for the quarter final.
Since then, Nigeria has not been able to get beyond the preliminary stages as the Eagles failed to advance beyond that point at Korea/Japan 2002 and South Africa 2010.
When the Eagles therefore file out against France on Monday, they will aim to break the jinx by making t to the last eight, which if achieved would see them equal the feats of Cameroun, Senegal and Ghana, the only African countries that have so far played up to the quarter final stage of the World Cup.
Against France, the Eagles must lift their game particularly at the backline as they will be up against a French attack made up of potent strikers such as Karim Benzema, Oliver Giroud , Loic Remy,Antoine Griezmann and the rest.
Yobo Joseph, Juwon Oshaaniwa, Ambrose Efe and Kenneth Omeuos must be at their best to protect ever reliable Vincent Enyeama from being exposed to barrage of attacks from the rampaging French forwards.
The Stephen Keshi tutored lads also need to take their chances, meaning that Osaze Odemwingie, Emmanuel Emenike, Ahmed Musa and company should rise up to the occasion to make life unbearable for the defense of France while Mikel Obi and Ogenyi Onazi should also make sure the Eagles take control in the middle of the field.