How Lack Of Football Intelligence Killed Golden Eaglets In Brazil
• Fans lament after staying awake to watch lazy team
Even before the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria stepped out for the round of 16 match, which they lost to Netherlands yesterday morning, some Nigerians, including former Green Eagles winger, Adegoke Adelabu, had written off the boys’ chances of making meaningful impact in the championship.The five –time champions were bundled out after being forced to swallow some bitter piles in Brazilian city of Goiania by losing 1-3 to the European side.
Some Nigerians who stayed awake to watch the match are still lamenting what they described as ‘complete waste of time.’“Staying awake to watch the Golden Eaglets against Netherlands was a complete waste of time and energy,” a football fan, Adeola Owolabi lamented while speaking on a radio sports programme yesterday.
Another fan, who gave his name as Isiaka said: “Apart from wasting my time, I also wasted money buying fuel on my generator to watch the match. The Golden Eaglets I used to know don’t approach matches that way. This team failed in all departments of the game. I blame the coaches for the poor selection of players for this World Cup.”
Adelabu, a sports scientist, blamed the early exit of the Golden Eaglets on what he described as lack of football intelligence.“Both our coaches and players need a complete reorientation in the area of football intelligence,” Adelabu said. “When you have a game plan, the match itself will determine its own standard to prove the efficacy of your tactics and movements as the game demands.
“Most of the time, we don’t play meaningful games that can teach us to think better. Something has to be done. It is absolutely difficult to make anything out of our successes in the past. Today we are still gambling in our approach to the game at this level.”Adelabu, who played for the IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan said: “I know why we fill players over the age limit in competitions. A 17-year-old player in Nigeria will be equal to a 10-year old Brazilian in football intelligence. I think there is difference between the chronological age and football IQ age, which is inversely proportional in our own situation.”
The Golden Eaglets are the most successful team in the tournament, having won a record five FIFA U-17 World Cup titles. They were champions at the inaugural edition at China ’85, Japan ‘93, Korea 2007, UAE 2013 and Chile 2015.The team, led by Coach Manu Garba began the tournament by coming from 1-2 down to beat Hungary 4-2 in their first group match. They went on to beat Ecuador 3-2 in their second group match after coming from behind.
The Golden Eaglets lost their last group match 1-2 to Australia before putting every foot wrong in the early hours of yesterday in the round of 16 match against The Netherlands.After the 3-2 win against Ecuador, President Muhammadu Buhari sent words across to the team encouraging them to go for the title.Prior to Nigeria’s participation at China ’85 FIFA U-16 World Cup, the team was called The Baby Eagles. But Buhari, who was the head of state at that time, christened it the Golden Eaglets. That was after the Nduka Ugbade-led team had conquered the world.
From China ’85, the Golden Eaglets went on to win three other World Cup titles on Asian countries- Japan ‘93, Korea 2007 and UAE 2013. Nigeria made history as the first to win the FIFA U-17 World Cup a record fifth times in 2015, when coach Emmanuel Amunike led the Golden Eaglets to conquer in South American country, Chile.
After failing to qualify in 2017, many Nigerian football fans were looking forward to seeing Coach Manu Garba and his boys make good impact in Brazil, another South American country. The journey ended in the early hours of yesterday in the hands of the Dutch, a team that lost their first two matches of the competition and only got into the knockout stage after beating USA 4-0 in their final group phase tie.
The Nigerian team topped Group B following wins over Hungary and Ecuador despite a shock defeat to Australia.The Golden Eaglets’ untidy habit of conceding early in their games proved ill –advised this time, as Sontje Hansen scored in the fourth minute and then followed up with two more goals to render Olakunle Olusegun’s goal from a blistering shot in the 12th minute of no effect.
A game of very high intensity at the Estadio Olimpico was decided by tactical awareness, silky skill, economic football and good organization, with the Eaglets doing most of the running but failing to get their passes right in the critical zone. They were also guilty of wayward shooting.
After Olusegun cancelled Hansen’s first goal, the Nigerian youngsters had themselves to blame for Hansen’s second, which arrived no thanks to sloppy defending of a free kick in the 15th minute. A poorly cleared ball fell at the feet of the gifted Hansen at the edge of the box, and he let fly a rasping drive that goalkeeper Daniel Jinadu had no answer to.
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