Saturday, I happened on the Nigeria match on AIT.
My family was asleep. Silence all around me as the Eagles took to the offensive. Needed to share this rejuvenation with someone. Yes, I said to myself, this, was our World Cup team.
The joy was shortlived. USA took control and dominated the match. In the absence of a Nigerian midfield, the defense was as porous as porous can be. The American attacking quartet of Altidore, Dempsey, Beasley and Bradley tore through us at will.
Goalkeeper Enyeama, God bless him.
Nigeria will then appear momentarily through Moses and Emenike, only to lose the ball for another American onslaught.
It reminded me of the famous election head count of Atiku …. Atiku …. Jonathan …. Jonathan …. Jonathan…. Jonathan …. Jonathan …. Jonathan …. Atiku …. Jonathan …. Jonathan …. Jonathan …. Jonathan …. Jonathan …. Jokes aside, there was no mistaken the superiority of the Americans on the night as Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore deservedly put them one goal ahead with a simple tap in after the defence had been ripped apart.
The second half took the pattern of the first as the Nigerians came out in full force, probing and passing, trying to hoist the flag, but as witnessed in the first half, it was shortlived. It was the Americans all the way. But for the heroics of Enyeama, the goal tally would have hit five.
They were rewarded when Altidore rounded Yobo neat to release a belter that Enyeama could do nothing about. Consolation came in the way of a Moses well taken penalty. He ran into a beautifully placed pass by Emenike, skillfully sidestepped a defender, only for another to bring him down. Penalty. He rose to masterfully slot home.
The last words that followed me to bed were those of the commentator that the US were going to the World Cup riding on the confidence of three friendly match victories out of three.
Did I really sleep? I must have, because I dreamt that we played three World Cup first round matches, drew two and lost one. With two points out of a possible nine, we were home bound. Then I remembered that Scotland, Greece and USA were not in our World Cup group, and I heaved a sigh of relief.
I then decided to look at friendlies from a global point of view, where friendlies though very important as signposts to the future do not always tell the day.
First stop, Italy, potential World Cup winners. Since Italy qualified for the World Cup with two matches to spare, they have gone seven matches without a win. The last two results against Ireland (0-0 ) and Luxembourg (1-1) do not seem to worry coach Cesare Prandelli and his four time winners,…so we are told.
England drew 2-2 with Ecuador and could only hold a ten man Honduras to a goalless draw. France played 1-1 with Paraguay and the great Germans drew 2-2 with Cameroun, while Greece held Portugal to another 0-0 scoreline. With the arsenal at the disposition of Spain, you would have expected them to score more than David Villa’s brace against El Salvador.
Maybe I should focus on our group opponents. Iran playing Angola with Nigeria in mind came out with a credible 1-1 draw.
Argentina are second best overall odds to win the World Cup and big betting favourites to top the group. For friendly they invited Trinidad and Tobago (?) and won 3-0 through goals by Palacio, Mascherano and Rodriguez.
Next they took on Slovenia and Messi was a second half substitute scorer who guaranteed a 2-0 scoreline.
Bosnia and Herzegovina lost to Egypt, beat Mexico 1-0 and Cote Divoire 2-1 with Edin Dzeko scoring a brace, the second a first time hit from about 22 metres. A strikers delight!
Bosnia, since August 2012 has played 19 matches, won 14, drew 1 lost 4, scoring 40 goals and conceding 15.
In brief, Nigeria’s preparation as we run into the World Cup has been far from convincing and I have been trying, very hard to justify that friendly matches though pointers to the future do not determine same.
Coach Stephen Keshi and his technical crew must now be in a good position to assess their wards and take decisions as to the tactics and players most likely to execute those tactics against the three teams in our group.
In doing so, we cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that Iran has an experienced coach, that Bosnia is also about Ibisevic, Misimovic, Pjanic, Hajrovic and Stoke Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic…and that Argentina are world beaters, any day.
The minutes tick……..the heart beats…..D-Day approaches. Good luck Nigeria.
See you next week