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ANGOLA 2010: A POST MORTEM

Again, the Pharaohs of Egypt has won the Africa Cup of Nations for a consecutive three times. The Egyptian national team defeated Ghana in the finals of the 27th edition of the tournament that ended in Angola on January 31, 2010.

In the tournament, Egypt demonstrated continental soccer supremacy and won all her six matches. The country has won the Cup a record seven times. She won it at home in 2006 and repeated the feat in 2008 in Ghana, and 2010 in Angola. We commend Egypt for the superlative performance, and Angola, for hosting the tournament.

For the Nigerian Super Eagles that came third having defeated Algeria, it was a lacklustre performance all the way. Although the team won its fourth bronze medal in five Nations Cup finals, such performance is, indeed, below expectation. The Eagles ought to have reached the finals of the competition in view of the array of football talents in the country.

Being the third best in the continental football competition does not in any way justify our claim to being the giant of Africa. It is high time the team rose up to the challenge of continental soccer leadership.

However, the Eagles' unimpressive performance is not totally unexpected. There was really no sufficient preparation for the football fiesta. In addition, the boys were not well blended before and during the games. In short, they played as individuals rather than a team. These inadequacies should be corrected before the World Cup in South Africa, later in the year.

It is evident that the team under Shuaibu Amodu lacked ideas, technically. That can possibly explain why the players lacked a fighting spirit and commitment to win a competition of this nature. This may be the reason for Amodu's removal. No doubt, Nigeria deserves a more technically committed team and coaching crew.

It is sad and disappointing that while the performance of some other teams in the tournament got better as it progressed, ours grew worse. Our greatest undoing was the featuring of unfit and injured players. The selection process lacked merit. Next time, there is the need to infuse the team with new talents.

It is also lamentable that our team was victory-shy. The attackers were not aggressive. There was no will and determination to win. The players behaved as if there was nothing as stake. Except one or two players that distinguished themselves, the rest were complacent.

Nigeria needs to invoke the spirit of competition our players displayed at continental and global soccer events in 1994 and 1996. Our players then were hungry for achievement and goals and they shone like bright stars in the nation's football firmament.

Nigeria should learn a lesson from Egypt, which came to Angola with a local coach and players largely drawn from the local league. The nation should grow the local league and discover new talents that would always nourish the national team. Relying only on our footballers abroad for continental and global football events is not healthy for our soccer development.

While we give kudos to the organisers of the tournament, it is unfortunate that the competition commenced on a tragic note with the attack on the Togolese team and subsequent loss of three members of the contingent, and wounding of several others. The sour development made Togo withdraw from the event, attracting dire consequences from Confederation of African Football (CAF) which banned the country from participating in the next two editions of the competition

Although Togo's withdrawal might have affected the laid down plans of the game and even flouted some of its rules, we consider the CAF decision harsh, draconian and unacceptable. Besides being severe, CAF did not give Togo a chance to defend itself. Such ill-advised decision is insensitive to the misfortune that befell Togo in Cabinda. In the interest of African football and the need to empathise with Togo, CAF should rescind this decision forthwith. We advise Togo to go to the court of arbitration for sports if CAF refuses to rescind its decision.

Generally, the quality of play was not as high as the preceding ones. Let there be an improvement in future competitions. It is a pity that Africa's World Cup-bound teams - Nigeria, Algeria, Cameroun, Ivory Coast and Ghana - did not do very well in the tournament.