Saturday, June 20, 2009

Beauty and the Beast

Every once in while a player or coach comes up with a tactic or style that revolutionizes the game of football. Whether it's the introduction of the "back four" by the Brazilians ,the idea to have the full back bomb forward to act as wingers as introduced by Alf Ramsey,or even the unique Dutch "total football" developed by Rinus Michels and perfected Stefan Kovacs at Ajax,they've always had lasting effects on football.

One that has stood the test of time is the “beauty and the beast” combination at center back. Essentially, the more skillful player, comfortable with the ball at his feet (the beauty) acts as the sweeper and plays behind the other, the more physical of the two. This gives him a bird's eye view of movements on and off the ball, thus he can read and stop opposition attacks, as well as instigate counter attacks for his team. Better still he can bring the ball out of the defence so that his midfielders do not have to receive the ball with their backs to the opposition.

The beast, the more physical of the two, adept to dealing with the aerial threats and more forceful in his approach, is the penultimate line of out field defence and depending on the tactics adopted, could also man mark a dangerous opponent.

The sweeper or libero as the Italians will have him, has also being employed as the lone man behind a central pair, either as a defensive cover, as was used by the Italians in catenaccio or as a deep lying attacking defender cum midfielder as used by the great German teams of the 1970s.

German great Franz Beckenbauer is often credited with developing this role. He launched his teams' attack from deep as they (Bayern Munich and Germany) dominated Europe.

Without really making any noticeable alterations to the basic principle, most teams have used this concept to create some formidable defensive partnerships.

Rio Ferdinand(beauty) and Namaja Vidic(beast) at Man Utd; Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry(Chelsea) and Márquez/Puyol at Barcaelona have perfected this act. At international level Rio/Terry(England), Nesta/Canavaro(Italy) and Blanc/Desailly(France) have also been very successful.

If we go back in history the stylish Gaetano Scirea combined with the ruthless, Claudio Gentile, to form perhaps the best defensive partnership in FIFA World Cup history, helping Italy to win the cup in 1982. The ironically named Gentile, which is Italian for Genteel or kind, was neither of these attributes as he kicked, pinched, nudged and tackled his opponents into submission, while the more graceful Scirea mopped up play.

Further back in history, Leeds United's hard man Jack Chalton was available to form another great partnership with the great Bobby Moore as England won the WC in 1966. The list is endless really.

In Nigeria,Keshi was always paired with a "muscle man"- Okechukwu Uche,Bright Omokaro and Ajibade Babalade all played successfully with him.

Yobo and Shittu who are the first choice partnership for the Eagles at the moment are too similar in style, in my opinion. Their "no nonsense" approach is also similar to those of Sam Sodje, Onyekachi Apam and Obinna Nwaneri. That leaves Adeleye whose approach is much more subtle. He should provide the foil for any of the other players.

At the Olympics last year, Adeleye and Apam perfected this role and conceded just two goals from open play (due to goal keeping errors, I might add). Also while Apam “the Beast” earned five yellow cards at the tournament, the more classy Adeleye’s record was as clean as a whistle.

In the future, depending their form, this will no doubt be the long term partnership, but at the moment, based on form, experience and ability, a Yobo and Adeleye partnership should be the first choice.

PS: This was written before the last two international matches, so bear with me if it seems a little bit dated.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Northern Promises.

“Better a broken promise than none at all.”

~ Mark Twain

The fear of Tunisia is perhaps the beginning of wisdom for Nigeria. Why does Nigeria need to fear (no, let me rephrase, respect) Tunisia, one might ask. It's simple, three times we've met at various stages of FIFA World Cup preliminaries and twice they've come out smelling of roses.

The only time Nigeria overcame them, the Eagles needed penalties to do so, after both matches ended 2-0. That was in 1981.Of course everybody remembers the infamous loss in Lagos in 1977.

Very few people however, know that they were responsible for Nigeria's absence at Mexico '86. In one of the bleakest periods in Nigeria football, a time the Eagles failed to qualify for the 1986 FIFA World Cup as well as the Nations Cup.

Without Captain Stephen Keshi and five other players from league champions NNB FC who were suspended after a dispute with the NFA, Tunisia dumped the Eagles out of the FIFA World Cup 2-1 on aggregate and Nigeria's search for their first appearance at the finals tournament continued.

To date, Tunisia still have the upper hand in the head-to-head statistics against Nigeria, but over the past tens years the balance of power has tipped slightly to the Eagles favour.

As the Super Eagles prepare to meet the Eagles of the Carthage variety on Saturday, they can look to their past performances at Tunisia's western neighbours, Algeria for inspiration. While the first result helped achieve the ultimate goal, a FIFA World Cup ticket, the later while impressive was not enough.

With the Ivory Coast breathing down their neck, the Eagles needed a draw in their final qualifier in Algiers to book their flights to the USA. The Eagles were outstanding and Finidi George’s goal earned Nigeria a valuable 1-1 draw as well as a passage to the New World.

Unlike in 1993, the Eagles fate wasn't entirely in their own hands in the race to Germany 2006. The Nigerian set-up had pressed the self destruct button and the countdown was on. This meant they had to win their remaining games in the preliminaries while hopping that their main rivals Angola slip up.

In the penultimate game in Oran, the Eagles put in a vintage performance and ran away 5-2 winners, sadly it was not enough which meant the Nigeria missed out on a trip to Germany.

Once again, the pressure is on after they dropped two points in Maputo. Hopefully they can produce one of those back-to-wall performances, and come away with the three points.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Calling on Gov. Fashola to revive Stores.

Stationery (Super) Stores have been in a state of coma for years and years now, thus depriving Lagos, Nigeria largest city, of a top flight club.

Much as Julius Berger, First Bank, Niger Dock and later NPA, have tried, they never could equal the following ascribed to Stores, which ran into millions of fans.

I remember watching the 1990 FA cup final between Stores and Enugu Rangers at the Surulere (then National) Stadium. There was a full house with no standing room left. I do not have official attendance for that match, but I estimate over 60,000 spectators turned up and three quarter of them were rooting for Stores.

Since they slipped into there current state in the late 1990s, potential fans have been lost, especially to the English premier league. Lagos is currently awash with fans of all sorts of clubs, Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona and even Bolton (I kid you not!).These fans could have made up the Stores fan base.

At the moment, Gov Fashola is believed to be the best governor in the current political dispensation as can been in the dramatic transformation of the Lagos metro area. One thing missing is a top flight football club.

This without a doubt can have great economic and social impact on Lagos, but I will not bore you by listing them here. Luckily, the government has invested in metro transportation so movement of fans will not be a problem.

Mega cities all over the world have claim to at least one major club. From New York(Red Bulls),Tokyo(Tokyo FC),London(Arsenal, Chelsea),Cairo(Al Ahly, Zamalek) to Rio de Janeiro (Flamengo, Botafogo etc), these clubs attract crowds in the thousands(even hundreds of thousands in the case of Flamengo),every other week. The same should be for Lagos.

Formed in 1958, Stores have the history and tradition to match some of the aforementioned clubs. Only few clubs have better domestic record in Nigeria, and even fewer have better pedigree. They have won the league once (in 1992) and the FA cup four times(1967,1968,1982 and 1990).They have produced some familiar faces on Nigeria's international set-up, Peter Rufai, Ike Shorumnu, Peter Anieke, Haruna Ilerika and Ajibade Babalade, as well as the former Ghana international Arthur Moses.

They also have two stadiums to choose from, Surulere Stadium, with a capacity of 55,000(all-seater) and Teslim Balogun Staduim with a capacity of 30,000 can accommodate fans, as well generate enough money to help run the club.

I'm not an advocate of state governments running football clubs, but I have a feeling that if the Lagos State government takes over the running of the club, Stores will be run in the in the proper way and perhaps give them the leverage to run themselves without government support in the near future.

I know there have been a lot of issues concerning ownership of the club, some sort of deal can be worked that includes(as well as be of benefit) to all parties involved as long as it ends up in Store being revived to take its rightful place in Nigerian football.

Do you Know?

That more than half of the team that represented Nigeria at the football event of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City came from Stores.

The Nigeria-Biafra war was still going on at the time so players from the Northern and the Eastern clubs were unavailable. Stores had won the FA cup back to back in 1967 and ’68, thus most of the players were chosen from the club.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Spring Awakening

"Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn."

~Lewis Grizzard

Just like the Earth, the Super Eagles seem to awaken every spring. Wearing the green and white of the nation, they bloom, flourish like the trees, spreading lots joy and through the flower of their performances, they bring color to the lives of their fans.

The catalyst last spring was the appointment of Shuaibu Amodu as the national team coach for the third time. He like the rains gave life to the team and helped them shed the shackles put on them by Berti Vogts’ management style.

They shone as they marched through the FIFA World CupTM qualifiers of last summer without dropping a point or even letting in a goal.

Over the last winter, it seemed the rot had set in once more, as they struggled to get good results in their matches. Although they lost just one game within the period, the ever demanding Nigerian public was once again on their back.

At first they were called “tired legs”, then “Super Chicken”, they later resorted to calling them "bench warmers", perceived as less derogatory and closer to the truth, since the more regular members of the team struggled to get a game in their clubs over the winter. The coach bore the brunt of the attack, as pundits, fans and the press came out of their cocoon baring their fangs, ready to devour them.

Like the Princess shut away asleep for a hundred years in the tower, waiting for her Prince to arrive and kiss her back to life, the Eagles waited, they waited for spring. They waited for the rains to come and wash away the rust of the last months.

Alas, spring is here!

Just like last year, they started out with a 1-1 draw, this time against the Republic of Ireland. With most of the regular players missing, Coach Amodu played a make shift team of debutants and returnees from international wilderness. In fact none of the players that started their last competitive match against Mozambique started the game.

Although the Irish themselves fielded a largely experimental team too, they had their spine of Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Keith Andrews and Robbie Keane available. The Eagles came away with a draw, and lots of positives.

Next up were the French, complete with their big names including that little magician from Munich, Franck Ribbery, whose signature every big club in Europe, from Juventus to Real Madrid seem to be chasing.

Still without their top stars, the Eagle's fans expected a trumping from "Le Bleu". Once again, they fielded the "juniors" and even handed a first cap to left back Echiejile. True to his name, darkness never did come.

Like the North Star, the Eagles refused to be outshone by the galaxy of stars in the French firmament.

They battled, sweated, put their bodies on the line, and thoroughly out played the French. In the end, they came away with the most famous victory by the Nigerian national team since beating Spain at the 1998 FIFA World CupTM in France and became the first African team to beat the French on home soil.

They succeeded where teams before them failed. The likes of Egypt(5-0),Tunisia(3-1), Morocco(2-2), Ivory Coast(3-0) and Cameroun (1-0) have all fallen to France in recent years. Even England has failed to find a way past them in their backyard.

The question now is, will these performances be the tonic the team needs to waltz through the FIFA World CupTM qualifiers this summer? Have they done enough to win back the support of their teeming, which by my last count includes the over 130 million Nigerians on Earth?

With matches against Kenya at home and Tunisia in Tunis in the FIFA World CupTM to come, they do need an elixir to see them through.

One thing is certain though, Coach Shauibu Amodu has done enough to keep his army of critics (and they are many indeed) quiet for a week or two and if he does get through this summer unscathed, he would have taken a major step to shutting them up permanently.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Morning After…

One thing about football writing is the penchant to use clichés. One of those clichés is the saying that there are no more minnows in football, especially African football. This assertion is generally true, even though Andorra, San Marino and Liechtenstein will have something to say about it.

It will even be more difficult to put this particular cliché to bed-another cliché, forgive me, couldn’t resist-after the first day of the third round of the FIFA World Cup® qualifiers. From Cairo to Maputo, the result was the same,shock results for the favourites againts the smaller teams. Cameroun and Morocco suffered surprising defeat to Togo and Gabon respectively, the later at home, while Egypt were lucky to escape with draws against Zambia, also at home. Ghana held on to a first minute to scrape past a dorminant Benin, while Guinea were comprehensively beaten by Burkina Faso.

Only the Ivory Coast came out with their cloaks unsoiled on the pitch, albeit at a huge cost. They put five past Malawi, but the real news of the day was the death of 19 people and more than 130 injured after a stampede at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny stadium shortly before , before the match, thus adding to a long list of stadium disasters in football. This without a doubt blotted the copy book for the Ivoriens on a rather perfect day for them on the pitch.

In Maputo, Nigeria were lucky to escape defeat as Mozambique had two goals chalked off in a goalless draw. This result has since put a cat among the pigeons in the Nigerian football setup, with everybody, journalists, fans and pundits calling for Shuaibu Amodu’s sack and an overhaul of the Eagles’ set up.

Watching the Eagles on Sunday was like eating spoiled soup. It left a permanent sour taste in the mouth. Their passes were constantly misplaced, the forwards failed to make runs when they ought to. The midfield was non-existent, causing the forwards to run around like headless chicken while waiting for the ball to come through to them. When the ball did get through to them somehow, they fluffed their lines in spectacular fashion.

The only positive from the match was the fact that defence held it’s ground. It is a testament to what can be done if players play consistently together. Unlike the midfield and the attack that played like strange bedfellows, the defence showed a level of understanding,stemmnig from the fact that there has been little change in personnel in the defence for over a year. They played their line well to deny Mozambique those two goals and covered for each other when they needed to. Even though they resorted to last ditch clearance at times, but it was due primarily to lack of protection from the midfield. This more or less accounted for why Nigeria’s best performers on the day were Nwaneri and Shittu.

In the second half they dealt with the threat the Mambas posed in the air. Chidi Ordiah and Taye Taiwo, stayed back most the time to make sure wingers Domingues and Luis were kept quiet,thus cutting out the supply line, while Danny Shittu and Obinna Nwaneri, who was captain on the day took turns on Dario, who scored the disallowed goals in the first half. As a result, goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama made just one save of note in the second half. This was a far cry from the situation in the first half when the Mambas ran riot and should have put the match away.

While the defence regrouped, the same could not be said of the midfield and attack. Apart from a five minute period up to the 20 minute mark, when they put together a string of passes, with Mikel, Kaita and Ike Uche showed some understanding, they simply played catch up to the Mozambicans. Mikel, who should not have started, became more and more tired as the match progressed and should not have been on the pitch when the referee blew the final whistle. Kaita kept going forward leaving his defensive duties, perhaps with the understanding that Mikel, who is adept to playing the holding midfield role, will cover for him. But, Mikel was either too tired play box to box or did not understand Kaita, whom he last played alongside in 2006. They also kept getting in each other’s way, generally handing the midfield to the Mozambicans on a platter.

That leads to Amodu and the decisions he made for this match. His selection, while bold was flawed based on three facts Mikel was half fit to play his role, he had not played with Kaita in long time and the absence of a proper winger in the lineup. In a perfect world,based on their abilities, the central midfield pair should be our best, with Kaita to sit and Mikel to link. But in Maputo, Mikel failed in his duties, prompting Kaita to do Mikel’s duties as well his. Femi Ajilore, could have been a better choice than Mikel on Sunday,given that he was more match fit and was great with Kaita at the Olympics last year.

The decision to use Osaze and Obinna in the wide roles didn’t help either. They have done the job in the past in the absence of proper wingers and are quite useful in dead ball situations, since Mikel is useless at this. But we didn’t need to have both men on the pitch at once. Using Kalu Uche on the right, with a license to roam, otherwise a free role behind the front two, could have sufficed. Even if we insist on using both Osaze and Obinna at the same time, he should have been given a role behind Martins instead of his brother Ike.

Also Amodu’s inability to make a tactical change early enough in the match was key. It meant that, the Eagles effectively ran out of time in the end. His decision to bring in Ajilore for a tiring Obinna was spot on, but the timing was poor. It coincided with a period of dominance by the Eagles late on. He should have made that decision at half time,or immediately after, and should have also sent Kalu Uche on for Mikel,who had clearly ran out of gas. Again his decision not to invite replacements for players that pulled out of the squad did him in. It gave him a chance to add more midfielders to the squad, especially Etuhu and Obodo, but he failed to take it. They would have given him more options on Sunday.

A goalless draw would have been a fair result, but for the fact that Tunisia won away to Kenya. This means that Nigeria are already playing catch-up, thus setting off the alarm bells all over the country. One half the population already believes we will not qualify, while the half believes we can only get to South Africa if we get rid of Amodu.

To say these are knee jerk reactions to the situation is an understatement. At the moment Tunisia have the initiative, but the qualifying series is a marathon, and not a sprint. The Eagles can still qualify, but they can only do it if we play it cool now. There is no need to sack Amodu, despite his poor judgment in Maputo. Tunisia are yet to visit Maputo and I am convinced they will find playing there just as difficult as the Eagles did. In fact, I think the Eagles have a better chance of wining in Tunis, they had in Maputo. The conditions in Tunis will be far more suited to them than what they saw in Maputo.

I am a huge fan and advocate of Samson Siasia, whom many are convinced will be the ideal replacement for Amodu and would love to see him in charge of the Eagles some day, but not now. Amodu has a job to do and his done it to best of his abilities, especially given the resources he has available to him in terms of personnel. I think the abilities of the players in the current Eagles team, contrary to popular opinion is very limited. He has done well, despite his errors on Sunday, to bring them to the level they are at the moment. Two years ago, even with Beri Vogts in charge, the Eagles could have lost this match. In my opinion, he should be allowed to complete the job, rather than bring in someone new, who will want to upset the current set up and put the players in the state of readjustment, a state they have been in, far too many times, since Clemens Westerhorf left the Eagles set up in 1994.

Do you know?

That the Eagles lost their first match in the second round of qualifying for the 1994 FIFA World Cup® to the Ivory Coast, but still made it through USA. In fact at this stage they were bottom of the table with no points, while Ivory Coast topped with three points. They still qualified on goal difference.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Kings and Pawns, Emperors and Fools.

An open letter to the “five wise men”.

It is clear that deep down the NFF board considers itself a failure! This perhaps accounts for the constant march, through their actions and utterances, towards destruction. Their penchant for making strange decisions regarding the national teams(for exampel,appointing Adegboyega Onigbinde and Henry Nwosu to “over see” Okey Emodi’s work with the locally based Eagles team during the CHAN qualifiers) in an effort to stop the slide by the national teams (both male and female) in the past months, no doubt illustrates their despiration.

First they allow themselves to be corned into believing that the Eagles have to get to the semi final of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa to be considered successful(that’s a discussion for another day). This was more or less an “ultimatum” given by the Sports Minister who continues to exert some influence on the NFF, albeit subtlety and sometimes otherwise, as the “supervising ministry”.

This has resulted in their recent failure to protect their employee, Shuiabu Amodu, from the barrage of criticisms hauled at him after the draw with Jamaica (a perceived inferior team) in last month’s friendly.

Every organization has its goals and objectives, the NFF is no different. Thus management and staff work hand in hand to achieve these goals. As such these employers expect some level of loyalty from their employees, while they in return expect some form of protection from those who are trying to hamper their well oiled machine.

Unfortunately, the NFF failed to protect Amodu these past weeks, in fact they (through their technical committee), tried to sabotage him, when they insisted on “vetting” (whatever that means) the squad list for the world cup qualifying match against Mozambique. These actions (or inactions) are most unfortunate given that Amodu’s team has one of the best records in the World cup qualifiers so far (at per with Spain, England and Holland), irrespective of the opposition (England played against Andorra and Kazakhstan). It’s a shame that Vincente Del Bosque, Fabio Capello and Bert van Marwick are not subjected to this same treatment being metted out to Amodu. The latest being the reported appointment of a consortium of coaches by the NFF to “advise” Amodu.

I am sure that Amodu did not ask for this consortium (it will be strange if he did) and surely it will serve as nothing but a source of distraction for him and his assistants. I do not want to go into the credentials of the members of this consortium (reportedly, Kasimawo Laloko, Adegboyega Onigbinde, Monday Sinclair, James Peters, and Alabi Aissien). I am sure they have at one point or the other achieved some success in football, both at local and international levels, but their involvement as individuals or as a group at this point in the Eagles will yield nothing but discord and ultimately failure.

We as individuals always jump at a chance to serve our country. We consider it a privilege, thus we’re always hard pressed take such opportunities. But like everything in life there is the good and the bad sides of any action one intends to take. As such one is expected to consider both sides before taking such actions. If the bad out weighs the good, one is expected to back down. One of such cases is this one.

I am sure the five men appointed into this consortium are honorable men and are expected to act as such. The NFF in its desire to do the “right thing” for the national team, have made a bad decision and it’s up to these honorable men correct it by refusing this appointment.

I know it’s difficult to refuse an appointment that will represent an addition to one’s current income in these difficult times, especially if it means a chance to do one’s “patriotic duties”. One might also argue that there are over 120 million people in Nigeria and if one does not take the chance, they can easily appoint some other person to that position. Yes, but one was chosen because one was considered to be the best among the lot and any replacement will no doubt smack of being second choice. Also the NFF will have to give the idea second thoughts if one says no.

There is a theory that this is a ploy by the NFF to cause confusion in the Super Eagles ( as no doubt this will) and thus provide an excuse to bring in a foreign coach-which translates to some agents with links to board members becoming a little bit richer, at the tax payers expense. If this is so, one would have served as a pawn in the hands of Kings in their mad desire to achieve personal ambition and wealth. Mr. Onigbinde has been there before and the events of 2002, which changed many people's perception of him, are well documented. Only a fool will travel a road known to lead to oblivion twice!

The truth is that the current board of the NFF is on a path to destruction, dragging the whole nation along with it. One can either facilitate this or help redirect them. Instead of being fools for Emperors, one can become the wise counsel for kings and one way is to say NO to this idea.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

South Africa On Our Minds

While reviewing the performance of the of the Super Eagles in their debut appearance at the FIFA World Cup® in 1994 the monthly football journal Complete Football predicted that Nigeria will make a habit of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup®, like traditional superpowers Brazil, Italy, Germany and even African power house Cameroun if we can build on that performance and also if we work on getting a few factors right.

This assertion was made based on the credible performance of the Eagles and mostly on the array of talent available to us at the time. Nigerians had just seen arguably their best team ever come within two minutes of eliminating Italy in the second round and qualifying for the quarter final.

Building on that performance the Eagles went on to qualify for the next two editions of the competition in France and in Korea/Japan, as well wining the Olympic football gold, the first by an African team.

Then in 2005, we failed to qualify for the 2006 world cup on Germany, in what many consider a blip in the expected dominance of the African qualifying competition by the Super Eagles. The reasons for that failure are numerous , not least the lack of commitment shown by the players, especially in honoring away matches and the alarming level of ineptitude displayed by the NFA in managing the qualifying competition.

So the question is, can we become consistent qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup® just as was predicted inn 1994? The answer of course is yes, but we have to start with next one to be held in South Africa and forget about previous successes and indeed failures in the qualifying campaign, which were mainly achieved by capitalising on kind draws into weak groups and also the a huge slice of luck in 2002 campaign when Liberia slipped up in the final hurdle. When such luck deserted us in 2006, the result was clear to all, failure to qualify.

So far in this campaign, we have shown that we have learned a lot from the 2006 campaign. The Eagles and NFF have performed their tasks diligently in wining all their matches as well as conceding just the single goal. While we have enjoyed some luck, scoring in the last minute to see off Sierra Leone in the Free Town, as well as wining in Johanesburg after being outplayed by South Africa, we have also been ruthless when they had the chance to be, dispatching Sierra Leone in Lagos 4-1 in a game that should have seen them win by a greater margin but for the referee’s decision to disallow two legitimate goals late on.

As the second round commences in March, 2009, the competition will no doubt become tougher especially as Nigeria has been drawn in the same group with Tunisia, who have a habit of knocking Nigeria out of the FIFA World Cup®, as well a history of qualifying for the three FIFA World Cup® competitions, mostly at the expense of the bookmakers choices for the ticket. They also have a knack for getting the job done against smaller teams in their group, while doing just enough against their main rivals to earn the ticket. What then do we need to do then to make sure that this doesn’t happen?

Do you know?

That Nigeria has lost out to Tunisia on two of the three occasions they have met in FIFA World Cup® qualifying competition. In 1977, Nigeria needed just a draw in Lagos in the penultimate match of the final group stage to qualify for the 1978 edition in Argentina, after holding them to a goalless draw in Tunis, but we lost 1-0 in what remains the last time we lost a competitive in regulation time at home (the other loss was on penalties to Cameroun in the Final of 2000 ANC). Godwin Odiye scored an own goal just five minutes into the match and there was no way back for Father Tiko’s Eagles.
In 1985, Nigeria also lost out to Tunisia, 2-1 on aggregate in the penultimate round of the 1986 qualifiers. Okey Isima scored in Lagos to give the Eagles coached by the late Christopher Udemezue a 1-0 lead going into the second leg, but goals by … and … ensured that Tunisia won 2-0 in Tunis in the return leg to end Nigeria’s ambitions.
The only time the Eagles have over come Tunisia was in first round of the 1982 qualifying campaign.The Eagles won on penalties in Lagos after both legs finished 2-0 to either side.