1994 World Cup: How Too Many Visitors Caused Super Eagles To Lose Against Italy
36 years after Nigeria made her debut in the FIFA World Cup finals in USA 1994, ex-players who played in the tournament are yet to let the defeat against Italy in the Round of 16 to be forgotten.
Former player in the tournament, Finidi George has disclosed many visitors trooping in and out of the Eagles hotel was one of the reasons the team lost to the European giants.
The Eagles were 1-0 up and had a man advantage over Italy in the round of 16 of the World Cup.
But with two minutes remaining in the game, Roberto Baggio equalised and went on to score a penalty to secure a 2-1 win for Italy.
And recalling what transpired before and after the game, the 1994 AFCON winner, in a radio programme on Wednesday, said: “That game against Italy, we would have won it but we had some issues before the game whereby (Clemens) Westerhof was not happy with the situation in the hotel. Too many visitors at every given time.
“So he wanted to move the team from that hotel but did not consult the players and we didn’t want to move. He told us just an hour before that we would be leaving but it was too short a time to do that. We didn’t want to leave so Westerhof left and said he was going to resign, he left the hotel and they looked for him and brought him back.
“That was an off-field problem we had but during the game we should have done a better job. I don’t know maybe because of experience we didn’t know what to do, maybe we felt a little bit nervous and they capitalized on that opportunity and scored.
“After the game we were all sad. Some players were so angry that they confronted Westerhof. They felt the choices he made for the match was not the best.”
And when asked on what he would have done against Italy if he was in Westerhof’s shoes, the 1995 UEFA Champions League winner with Ajax said: “If I was the coach, the starters would have been different. Though we’ve been winning before the Italy game but for me in a crucial game I would have kept the team. I wouldn’t have made a change, maybe one or two changes.
“I would have kept the team the way it used to be. As a coach what is working you keep it that way, you don’t change things in a crucial game like that.”