Nigeria beat Sierra Leone 2-1 on Thursday night thanks to a goal each from Alex Iwobi and Victor Osimhen. What to they need to do to qualify for and be successful at AFCON 2023.

The Nigeria squad are a much maligned setup that has promised much more but delivered little. For years now it has been amongst the elite within the FIFA rankings, continually defying the ‘on paper’ statistics to underachieve consistently.

It has come as a slightly strange occurrence that a team blessed with an abundance of talent just hasn’t found the formula for bigger successes in recent times.

It’s not complete doom and gloom – numerous managers have produced great results just not so often when it matters most.

England have a solid foundation to build from and all of the tools to evolve; it’s merely a question of how they can progress from here.

Youth And Experience

The generation of Ahmed Musa, William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo and Leon Balogun are increasingly approaching their ‘golden years’ within the sport.

Nigeria shouldn’t retain a reliance on these individuals no matter how much these players gesticulate; instead, they should employ these players as templates for future England stars and allow them to aid the younger players in making a seamless transition into the team.

In order for this idea to work, no third of the pitch should be dominated by the older players as more youth is eased in. Eventually, the new players will gain more international nous, allowing former players to be significantly reduced in appearances before eventually being eased out.

Precise Man Management

Whether it be the new crop or the older crop, there are definitely huge personalities and egos within the dressing room. It’s a very delicate job keeping everybody satisfied as there is always a large squad but only eleven men can ever play on the pitch at one time.

Peseiro has already come to loggerheads with some of the bigger personalities in his short time as boss.

It’s paramount that Peseiro find a way to ensure each member that enters the setup that they have indispensable role to be played; give the players respect whilst still letting them know, in no uncertain terms, who is in charge.

Give the egos a rest; forget personal glories – after all, football is a team sport. Every cup winning team in the history of international football knows this and promote it to the hilt.

England have, for a long time, relied almost exclusively on the close relationship between the teammates as it helps to build a bond that then translates to the field, allowing each player to express himself and each player to know what to expect.

France are the current crop that exhibit this fundamentally and are benefitting greatly from it but it has become so difficult – with ridiculous valuations and wages – for teams to follow suit.

Nigeria struggle to build the same rapport. It becomes contagious – from the press, to the fans, to the players; so much so that the players become indoctrinated into believing the negative or positive hype.

Super Eagles have to find a way to counteract this by taking the criticisms of a nation and using them to make themselves more productive.

Ability To Adapt

Eagles have built a legacy from resolute, hardworking displays and it is often enough to get them results. However, this style of play, especially when chasing a game, can be more of a hindrance than a help as they can sometimes find themselves tiring having tried so hard to get back into matches.

There has to be a ‘plan B’; an alternative that relies on intelligence more than athleticism in order to sustain pressure throughout the 90 minutes and beyond. The problem is that this Nigeria style has for so long been inflexible with the NFF unwilling to investigate the methods of the more prosperous international teams and take note; this isn’t to say completely transform the identity but, rather, tweak the identity to cope better with any situation.

As it is, Nigeria now play a brand of football that only rarely fascinates, bordering on the predictable. Why do they refuse to learn from the methods of Spain, France, Serbia, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil or, possibly most aptly, Germany – who have a similar footballing culture yet have been able to consistently adapt whenever necessary to stay at the top of the game?

Belief

Is there any point in showing up for a tournament if every man involved doesn’t believe that their team can win? The psychological aspect of football is in many ways more important than the physical as a bad mind-set can have physiological ramifications.

Conclusion

The team still has some way to go to catch up to the top sides from around the world. Having spent so much time in obscurity, patriots are way past impatient as they await conspicuous signals that indicate the NFF’s desire to improve the long running fortunes of the national squad.

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