HOW SUPER EAGLES FARED AT THE WORLD CUP
After a command performance by the Super Eagles in the opening Group B cracker against the star-studded Albicelestes of Argentina, the Nigerian team dashed the hopes and aspirations of its teeming fans in the subsequent group fixtures against Greece and South Korea.
Although it lost gallantly by 1-0 to the legendary Diego Maradona-tutored Argentine 'football army', a moment of insanity by Sani Kaita in the second match against Greece jeopardised Nigeria's chance of progressing to the second round of the tournament following the expulsion of the combat midfielder for kicking unprofessionally at a Greek player, thereby, giving the former European champion numerical and tactical advantages over a 10-man Super Eagles in a match that Nigeria needed to win to boost its chance of a second round berth.
Matters, however, came to a head on Tuesday when the Lars Lagerback-tutored side failed to lift its game against the South Koreans in a-must-win last Group B fixture despite pre-match vows by the players to die on the pitch rather than fail to beat the Asians.
The Nigeria team gifted away an early lead and could only rally to a 2-2 final scores to miss a rare chance of progressing to the second round of the soccer fiesta following Argentina's 2-0 defeat of Greece in the other Group B last fixture.
Although the overall performance of the Super Eagles team fell short of the expectations of Nigerians, some players acquitted themselves and deserve commendation while others should take a large portion of the blame for the team's disappointing outing at the first World Cup on Africa soil.
Saturday Sunsports presents a player-by-player assessment of how the Super Eagles fared.
Vincent Enyeama - Unarguably the most outstanding player in the Nigerian squad to the World Cup, goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama won the hearts of Nigerians and soccer fans across the world with his spectacular saves, particularly, in the matches against Argentina and Greece, emerging the man-of-the-match in both matches. Expectations are rife that he may well be on his way to a lucrative contract in Europe with clubs in the English Premiership said to be scrambling for the former Enyimba International of Aba's goalkeeper. Scorecard: 8points
Austin Ejide - Did not taste action.
Dele Aiyenugba - Did not taste action.
Joseph Yobo - He not only failed to justify his position as the vice-captain of the team but also could not bring his much trumpeted experience to bear. The Everton of England defender was more talkative on the pages of newspapers rather than organize the Nigerian defence on the pitch to avoid some kindergarten mistakes that led to goals against the Super Eagles. Before the matches he would vow to rather die on the pitch than lose only to write his colleagues off as inexperienced and immature after the matches. His confidence has waned and his pace has slowed considerably with retirement from international football beckoning on him. Scorecard: 3points.
Taye Taiwo: – Showed improved form, particularly, in one-on-one situations against opponents but his inability to return fast after joining the attack always posed problems to the Nigerian defence whenever the opponents were on the counter attack. The Olympique Marseille of France defender appears to have lost his long-range shot trade mark that used to fetch the Nigerian team goals at crucial times. Scorecard: 4points
Danny Shittu - Big, strong and reliable. Many questioned the inclusion of the bulky defender in Nigeria's World Cup squad citing his inability to play for his club, Bolton Wanderers of England throughout last season. But the player believed to be the heaviest professional footballer confounded everyone with the manner he stood like the Rock of Gibraltar in the Super Eagles' rear against the opponents at the mundial. Shittu cleared, nodded and blocked shots at the Nigerian goal to silence his critics. Scorecard: 7points.
Elderson Chiejile - One of the rising stars in the Super Eagles, Elderson Chiejile has continued to impress soccer fans since he broke the monopoly of Taye Taiwo in the left-full back position. His recovery rate, flexibility and ability to dispossess the opponents of the ball without committing fouls endear him to the hearts of many. Although some blame him for the second goal conceded by the Super Eagles against Greece, Chiejile remains a key figure in the future Nigerian team. Scorecard: 5points
Chidi Ordia - Strong, mobile and versatile. The CSKA Moscow of Russia defender shone like a million stars at the World Cup with his dribble runs down the right flank of the Super Eagles. Ordia's penchant for joining the attack whenever the Eagles were on the offensive proved hands full to Nigerians opponents at the World Cup. Scorecard: 7points
Dele Adeleye - Did not taste action.
Rabiu Afolabi - He could not really rise to the challenge when called to duty to man the left full back position in the game against South Korea. His lousy marking led to the equalizing goal by South Korea. Scorecard: 3points
Nwankwo Kanu - The Super Eagles captain suffered from a crisis of confidence over his fitness level and had to watch in agony from the bench in the first two matches as Nigeria bowed to Argentina and Greece. He, however, showed flashes of his legendary skills in the last group match against South Korea causing the Asians to panic for the duration he was on the pitch before he was substituted in the second half. Scorecard: 5points
Kalu Uche – Easily the revelation in the Nigerian squad to the 2010 World Cup. The Almeria of Spain attacker won the hearts of many with his superb ball control and goals scoring instinct. He capped his brilliant outing at the World Cup with two spectacular goals, one each against Greece and South Korea and was denied the third by the woodwork in the game against the latter. Scorecard: 8points
Haruna Lukman - Another revelation in the Super Eagles team to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa although he signalled his readiness for the World Cup assignment earlier during the tune-up matches ahead of the mundial. The captain of the Korea 2008 FIFA Under 17 World Cup victorious Golden Eaglets was amazing with the manner he marshalled the Nigerian midfield in the match against almighty Argentina. He was also impressive in the game against Greece. Scorecard: 6points
Dickson Etuhu - Performed below expectation. Hardly mobile and lacking in confidence as a midfielder, Etuhu was always in a hurry to release the ball each time he was in possession of the ball. He would neither join the attack nor provide vital passes to the strikers to score. Scorecard: 3points
Yusuf Ayila - His introduction would have been the immediate and best reaction by Lars Lagerback after the expulsion of Sani Kaita in the match against Greece being the other maker in the Nigerian squad to the World Cup after Kaita. However, in his anxiety to impress in the game against South Korea, Ayila attracted several cautions from the Portuguese centre referee and should thank his stars that he was not given the marching order after receiving a yellow card for allegedly going too physical against the Koreans. Scorecard: 3points.
Sani Kaita - His impressive showing against Argentina in Nigeria's first group match was rubbished by the avoidable red card he received in the game against Greece which cost the Super Eagles the match and seriously put Nigeria's chance of making it to the second round of the tournament in jeopardy. Scorecard: 2points
Osaze Odemwingie - The World Cup in South Africa turned a bad dream for the reigning Nigeria Footballer of the Year. Whatever made the Lokomotiv FC of Moscow forward, who had been Nigeria's most consistent player lately, fell out of favour before the new coach, Lars Lagerback. He did not play to his usual capacity in the game against Argentina before he was substituted as well as in the match against Greece when he was introduced as a substitute. Scorecard: 3points
Obinna Nsofor - Was introduced as a substitute in the matches against Argentina and South Korea but failed to make appreciable impression on both occasions. He capped his poor outing at the World Cup with an unpardonable miss in the match against South Korea. Scorecard: 3points.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni - Unarguably the worst player in the Super Eagles' team that played at the ongoing World Cup in South Africa. His prodigal misses in front of goal would remain a major discourse among football fans across the world for a long time. Scorecard: 2points.
Obafemi Martins – Another top rated striker in the Nigerian squad that failed to live up to his rating at the World Cup. He is also guilty of the catalogue of unpardonable misses that characterized the Super Eagles campaign at the ongoing World Cup. Scorecard: 3points
Chinedu Obasi - One of the outstanding players in the Nigerian squad to the World Cup. Obasi was prominent in the Super Eagles midfield due to his high work-rate. He combined pace with astonishing dribbling skills. A constant torn in the flesh of Nigeria's opponents, the Germany-based player would be remembered for spear-heading counter attacks prominent among which was the one in which he collected the ball from the centre of the pitch and ran through the defence of Greece before putting Aiyegbeni on in front of the goal only for the latter to shoot straight to squander the chance. Scorecard: 2points
John Utaka - Did not taste action.
Brown Ideye - Did not taste action.