Nigeria’s Loss to South Africa Becomes a Bitter Pill to Swallow
It should have been an easy win on the pitch as it was on paper for the Super Eagles, but South Africa defied extreme odds to defeat Nigeria at home in the 2019 AFCON opening Group E qualifier.
The loss has not gone down well with the West African side whose squad selection has instead confirmed doubts over its ability to carry the team into the future after a poor last AFCON campaign where they failed to make it to Gabon.
For South Africa coach Stuart Baxter, Saturday’s 2-0 win over Nigeria – the side’s first ever official competitive win over Nigeria – was “emotional” and “something special.” In addition, Baxter who was only appointed last month on a five-year deal, joined the national team last Monday and is already making the right strides.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It is the way the victory was achieved which has been so emotional. The long trip to West Africa, the short preparation period and then go into the match and completely outplay the home favorites is something special,”[/perfectpullquote]
“I have received countless messages of congratulations mostly from back home in South Africa. They are still trickling in and it goes to show what this win means for the country.
“We were comfortable on the ball, hit the post twice; I am absolutely delighted. This is what South Africa should do on regular basis,” he said.
Nigeria’s loss was not without effort, controlling and dictating most of the game but were unable to capitalize on the result. Defensive errors, for the most part, left the hosts vulnerable on top of missing obvious chances on goal.
The absence of John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses in the squad selection left a great deal of “lack of experience” in Nigeria’s squad which largely fielded players who were recently part of the 3-0 win over Togo friendly game.
Stand in captain, Ogenyi Onazi said, [perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Yes, the young boys played well, particularly in the first half but due to lack of experience, they could not gather their nerves when it mattered most. It is sad we lost even when we have the quality.”[/perfectpullquote]
Nevertheless, Nigeria coach, Gernot Rohr has maintained confidence in his selection despite admitting to difficulties in the match for the three-time African champions.
“My young team had a good first half, they played very well but they didn’t score. And in the second half, we knew that the experienced South Africans could be dangerous on counters and that happened,” Rohr told media after the game.
”We had difficulties to finish the match physically because some of my players were tired. We tried to put in three offensive players to bring some power in the attack but it was not enough.
”We knew that South Africa were unbeaten in 17 now 18 games and expected a tough game.
”After this kind of game, we are expected to make progress. My young team with an average age of 23 years today – the youngest in Africa will learn, they will not repeat the same mistakes.
”We controlled the game until the goal and after that, they became nervous. But I trust these players and I will not like to give any excuses.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”I am satisfied with my team and we have to be positive because we cannot always win. We win and we lose together.’’[/perfectpullquote]
For Nigerian fans, it was a disappointing loss which stirred up criticism as they took on social media to express their reactions.
Morale lesson for genort Rohr today… Akpeyi is a NO, Iheanacho is not a no9. Mikel is BOSS. No Victor Moses no party #NGARSA
— Optimus-9aul (@Optimus_9aul) June 10, 2017
Some tweets added a pinch of bafflement to humour.
Meanwhile, according to Premium Times, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, is to hold an emergency meeting with the Technical Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation on Tuesday in Abuja.
Calling on Nigerians to keep their faith in the Super Eagles, Dalung maintained confidence in Nigeria’s ability to qualify for the AFCON Finals in Cameroon after missing out on three consecutive tournaments.
Dalung said, “This is a temporary setback which is surmountable. We need to sit with the technical committee and crew to find out the immediate and remote causes of this setback.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“We have very young talented players in the Super Eagles and we trust that with more hard work and determination, this result can be reversed when we go to South Africa.[/perfectpullquote]
“This is just the beginning of a long journey. The Super Eagles will definitely be in Cameroon because we can’t afford to be absent at the Africa Cup of Nations for a third consecutive time. We must do all within our means to support the team when they win and when there’s a setback. We will ensure that no stone is left unturned in our pursuit of a ticket to Cameroon,” Mr. Dalung assured.
The Super Eagles lie third in Group E, ahead of Seychelles who lost 1-5 to Libya with the latter comfortably positioned top of the group table.
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