Some football fans in Abuja on Saturday expressed disappointment at the Super Eagles’ 0-2 loss to Croatia in their opening game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Nigeria had an unimpressive start to their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign on Saturday in Kaliningrad with a 0-2 loss to Croatia, thereby dropping to the bottom of Group D.
The result meant Croatia moved to the top of the table with three points, while Argentina and Iceland are second and third respectively after playing out a 1-1 draw earlier.
A cross section of football fans in Abuja, who spoke to NAN at a viewing centre in Maitama, said the Eagles got their tactics and formation wrong against the Croats.
Temitope Badmus, a civil servant, said the players were not coordinated, adding that the coach failed to make the necessary substitutions on time.
“I believe the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) did their best to ensure that this team was adequately prepared for the World Cup this time around.
“I must confess that I am really disappointed in the players as none could muster a good shot at goal.
“Mikel seemed lost, Moses kept falling and complaining at every slightest touch by the opponents, and Coach Gernot Rohr made his substitutions too late.
“The coach must learn to substitute any player not playing well on time. I must say he failed in that regard today,” he said.
Obi Uchendu, a businessman, noted that the goals conceded by the Eagles were “school boy errors”.
“We conceded all our goals through set pieces which clearly shows that the team is yet to learn the right approach in defending set pieces, which has been our major issue.
“The own goal conceded by Etebo could have been avoided and William Troost-Ekong had no reason wrapping his arms around Manduzkic the way he did.
“It was undoubtedly a clear penalty call by the referee,” he said.
Robert Akpan, a lawyer blamed the coach for the poor performance of the team.
“I think a lot of things did go wrong. Firstly, I think it was about the fitness and positioning of the players.
“In a situation where you field players like Wilfred Ndidi and Leon Balogun, who were reportedly injured and not a 100 percent fit to play in a crucial World Cup opening game what result do you expect to get?
“Balogun struggled throughout the week and only had a light training session on Friday.
“Ndidi was also not 100 percent fit and struggled throughout the Super Eagles pre-world cup preparations as he only got 90 minutes in the friendly against Czech Republic.
“It was therefore surprising to see that these players were allowed to play for the whole 90 minutes in a high profile match such as this one,” he said.
Akpan also added that most of the key players were played out of position which distorted the formation of the team.
“For instance, Alex Iwobi and Victor Moses who are natural wing players often dropped to deep to get the ball before they attack.
“Odion Ighalo was also starved of the necessary supply and had to track back often times to get the ball.
“This destabilised the whole formation of the team as the midfield struggled to keep position and lacked the necessary bite upfront to cause the Croats any serious problem.
“I hope the coach and his technical crew saw the flaws in the game and will hopefully get back to the drawing board to correct the errors,” he said.
Yisa Audu, a salesman, on his part said the Eagles were the better side, especially in the first half in which they dominated and dictated the pace of the game.
“We played well, especially in the first half but for the errors, we could have gone ahead to win or at most get a draw.
“I still believe that this our young team have the potential to go far in this tournament.
“We still have six points to play for and hopefully the team can up their game a little more and get maximum points or at least four from our remaining games,” he said.
Also, sports fans in Gombe attributed the failure of the Super Eagles to secure their first opening World Cup win since France 1998 to player’s errors.
Tijjani Jafar, Special Assistant to Gombe State Chairman, Sport Commission, said players’ errors and set pieces cost the Super Eagles their defeat.
“We performed below average and I tell you the set pieces cost us a lot. The players errors were just too much.
“We are out of this tournament I can tell you. The players were used in strange positions. We should have had Kelechi and Musa start this match,” he said.
Halilu Teli, Chairman, Sports Writers’ Association of Nigeria (SWAN) Gombe, said that lack of concentration which snowballed from the friendly matches was responsible for the performance of the Super Eagles.
“Lack of concentration after the first goal had a big psychological effect on the Nigerian players as they lost focus.
“During the friendlies, we complained about the lack of concentrations and chemistry before the World Cup and now it’s happening again.
“The match was okay but there was no striking power for the Super Eagles and the lack of chemistry between the players was a disadvantage that should be worked on.
“They failed to utilise their chances and handed over the midfield to Modric and Rakitic, which was not too good,” he said.
The chairman advised that the striking and midfield deficiencies be addressed by having more creative attackers and midfielders to do the damage.
Valentine Obi, another football enthusiast, told NAN that he was optimistic that the Super Eagles would qualify despite the loss.
Musa Ibrahim, a die-hard fan of Super Eagles and a sportswear businessman, said he was satisfied with the result and was ready to “sink or float with the Super Eagles.”
According to him, Nigeria’s appearance in Russia is a victory, adding that Nigerians must support the team totally to get good results against Iceland and Argentina.
In Lagos, Mutiu Adepoju, an ex-international, told NAN that it was sad that the team could not get a point from their first match.
Mr Adepoju advised the team’s coach, Gernot Rohr, to calm the players down and restrategise ahead of their second group match.
“The defeat is a very sad one, going into the game. I previewed that the encounter against Croatia would not be easy owing to their level of technicality.
“The coach should come up with another game plan for the next match and also calm the players down,” he said.
Ifalade Oyekan, a board member of the Lagos State Football Association, told NAN that the players should step up their game.
Mr Oyekan urged Nigerians not to write the team-off in the competition.
“”It is very unfortunate that the team was defeated but Nigerians should not be discouraged because this is football where anything is possible,” he said.
Also, Idowu Hassan, a grassroots coach in Lagos, told NAN that the Super Eagles formation against The Blazzers was bad.
Mr Hassan urged the coach to come up with formidable tactics in their next encounter against Iceland.
“The formation adopted by Rohr cost us this game. If we still want to remain in the competition, the coach must come up with something better in our next match.
Since the Super Eagles’ win against Spain in France 1998, Nigeria have failed to win their last three opening World Cup games.
Nigeria will now face Iceland in Volgograd on June 22 in their second match, while Croatia take on Argentina in the group’s other game.