AFCON 2013: AFCON 2013: Changes Keshi must make!

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There are three major qualities midfielders should possess. Coaches look out for these in them.

Marking abilities, creativity and passing. An addition is shooting. In some cases shooting may not be a must otherwise Mikel Obi will not be playing for Chelsea. It however depends on the approach or philosophy (apology Phillippe Trousier) of the coach.

There are midfielders who may not be good in creativity but they are ball winners. They mark very well and are usually a thorn in the flesh of attackers. They do the dirty job for the team and may not be noticed by those who look out for flamboyance. There are also those who can destroy opponents with their creativity. They have the skill to dribble their way through and lay assists that lead to goals. Sometimes they score too. Barcelona’s Xavi is an excellent example. There are also those who are great passers of the ball like our own Mikel Obi.

I have not seen any of these qualities in Fegor Ogude. I’m scandalised that such a player found himself in the starting line of the Eagles of Nigeria. Mistakes have been made and if Stephen Keshi is still the Keshi that I have known all these years, Ogude will romance the bench today when we play Zambia.

There must be changes  in tactics and in selection for the match against Zambia whose strong point is in their ability to mark and just keep on attacking although the possession football of Ethiopia reduced the potency of their style last Monday.

Many have been harsh on the Stephen Keshi team since the 1-1 draw with Burkina Faso on Monday. The late equaliser, actually disappointed millions of Nigerians.

But I must admit that in that team I saw the fastest counter attack any Nigerian team has exhibited since the days of Clemens Westerhof.

They were quick in the counters. What surprised me was their inability to launch many counter-attacks. But they couldn’t have going by the way they passed the ball back even when there was no pressure on them to do so.

Eagles led 1-0 in the first half but failed to seal off the game even when the chances came. They failed to put pressure on the Burkinabes and preferred to pass the ball back for reasons you can’t defend in modern football. Their style made Burkina Faso to survive.

A lot of people have condemned them for conceding a goal in the last minute of the match. I will not. It happens in football. Would you say that the Brazilian team was not good in Atlanta 1996 when we equalised in stoppage time and went on to win?

Would you say that Bayern Munich were not good when Manchester United equalised in the last minute and went on to win the European Championship in 1999?

I’m more concerned about their total performance than the result. When I discussed the match with our Deputy Editor, Eze Anaba, he said Keshi needed to make one or two changes and the team would soar high. I agreed with Eze, an ardent follower of the game.

Changing Fegor Ogude and directing his players to mount pressure on opponents by going forward will change a lot in the team. Directing his players to be quicker on the ball and  stop shielding it just to show off the way Echiejile, Emenike , Mikel and some others were doing would help the team.

Directing his players to crowd around the ball and break away when necessary will give them greater possession which helps in opening up defences. Asking Ike Uche to play for the team rather than for self will help. Correcting  Yobo and Godfrey Obaobona, the two central defenders never to run flat by charging on attackers the same time will help. It happened about three to four times against Burkina Faso.

One of them must always withdraw for slips when one charges ahead. These were the flaws I noticed in the match against Burkina Faso and I strongly believe that if they are corrected Eagles may soar on in this competition for they have a blistering counter attack that must be commended. Nigerians are yet to realise the damage done to our football before Keshi and co came on board. It will take a long time to repair.

That’s what I have to say while commending Ethiopia for their good play. They went partying after a good outing against Zambia. If they keep their heads, they may be the team of the tournament even if they don’t win.

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