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‘Eagles lacked direction against Desert Foxes’

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Former International, Felix Owolabi, has expressed displeasure over Coach Gernot Rohr’s decision to feature almost an entirely new squad in Friday’s tune up game against Algeria, saying the team played without direction.

The game was played in Klagenfurt, Austria,

The Desert Foxes fielded a strong side that included the team’s captain, Riyad Mahrez and a majority of the Algerian players that beat Nigeria 2-1 in the semi-final of the Total Africa Cup of Nation (AFCON) hosted by Egypt last year. However, despite some regular players missing on the Nigerian side, some of the regulars were seen on the bench based on the tactics of the Franco-German coach.

Speaking to The Guardian yesterday, Owolabi stated that it was unethical for a large chunk of newly invited players to appear for the Eagles in a game of that magnitude either friendly or competitive, adding that some of the debutants were overwhelmed by the tactics of the African Champions.

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“I pity the Eagles and I think Nigeria has a problem, which is leadership. I got a national award playing for this country at age 25, and at almost 67, I think I have every right, and also, I am in a good position to talk on Nigerian football.

“We are mortgaging the destiny of this country as far as football is concerned, and this is sad. As a coach, you don’t bring in debutants in a match as the one against the Algerian side with a lot of experience even if it’s a friendly duel.

“Such players are to be brought in gradually later on even if some of the regulars are absent through elimination by substitute. You don’t give debutants starting shirts,” he said, adding that the Nigerian spectators expect victory always from the Super Eagles.

“I can tell you that it is not easy playing for this great nation either in a friendly game or real match situation. Every time the whole country expects victory always and nothing less. That was why at the then National Stadium when the players don’t do well, they are booed.

“In that friendly against the Algerians, I wasn’t bothered about the result of the match, but the way the players approached it, which was unsatisfactory. I am not going to put the blame on the players this time around but solely on the coach who I think lacked the direction on how the team should play.

“The coach’s greatest mistake was that he did not give a sense of direction to the players on the field. I believed the dreaded North Africans overwhelmed the new players. You are playing against the African champions and you fielded almost entirely new players.

“If Nigeria does not look back at the local league as I have been clamouring for some years back, we shouldn’t expect any growth in our football. If the late Coach Stephen Keshi could win the 2013 AFCON in South Africa with a team made up of mostly players from the domestic league, then how do we lay a concrete foundation for our football?

“That is why I have always been saying that the destiny of our football lies in our local league and not the bringing of players from everywhere to form a national team. There is nothing bad in having a national team made up of 40 per cent home-based players.

After all, a house wasn’t built overnight and if you don’t develop the local league, Nigeria shouldn’t expect good results from international games,” he stated.

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