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Nigeria’s Super Eagles are ready for the 2022 World Cup—but clarity required prior to progress

By Guardian Nigeria
03 February 2022   |   4:00 pm
The old adage dictates that one’s failure to prepare is to prepare for failure, and after a disappointing exit from the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria are back at the drawing board.

The old adage dictates that one’s failure to prepare is to prepare for failure, and after a disappointing exit from the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria are back at the drawing board.

Uncertainty surrounds a team that hired Jose Peseiro as its head coach yet impressed at the AFCON with Augustine Eguavoen in the helm as interim manager.

It was under Eguavoen’s command, after all, that the team clinched three win from three during the group stage in Cameroon—the only team to do so—prior to falling 1-0 against Tunisia.

Ideally after a major international tournament, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) would have time on its hands to digest the fallout before making any long-lasting decisions.

The reality, however, is far harsher.

The Super Eagles have fewer than two months until they meet Ghana in a two-legged play-off to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a winner-takes-all showdown of mighty proportions.

The Guardian understands there is yet to be any concrete movement in regards to whom will lead the team moving forward after Peserio was noticeably absent in Cameroon, while the opposite could be said of Eguavoen:

In his third spell as the national team boss, the 56-year-old will have won over a new legion of fans for Nigeria’s fearless approach, with plenty of promise until they were toppled by the Tunisians.

Peseiro was only hired to replace the departed Gernot Rohr at the end of December, and yet Nigeria—who can be found at odds as high as 400/1 to win the World Cup—may have inadvertently stumbled upon a superior solution.

“What happens next is that I’m the interim coach and technical director of the NFF. I will go back to my position and allow the Federation to make a decision on the way forward,” Eguavoen recently told the BBC.

“I came here as an interim manager because of what’s been played out. Our former coach was relieved of his duties and it was just weeks before the Africa Cup of Nations. As technical director, anywhere in the world, that is what is obtainable. If there is a vacancy, it is the technical director that steps in before the coach has been appointed.

“So that’s why you see me taking this role as an interim manager. Some of our journalists sometimes change words, which is not too good. But we will manage it.”

While Eguavoen’s AFCON campaign may not have ended with a smile, it certainly started out with as much after Kelechi Iheanacho’s goal booked them a 1-0 win over top contenders Egypt:

The Leicester City frontman is one of those high-calibre Eagles who poses particular promise for their World Cup qualifying hopes.

He’s far from alone, either, with club team-mate Wilfred Ndidi among the squad’s contingent of difference-makers, along with assets like Nantes attackers Moses Simon and Torino defender Ola Aina.

Ghana, on the other hand, failed to advance past the AFCON group stage, taking just a sole point from their encounters with Morocco (0-1), Gabon (1-1) and Comoros (2-3). It would be folly to underestimate those results, however, considering Morocco more recently forced Egypt to extra time, and the fact the Black Stars put two past a very capable Comoros team despite having Andre Ayew sent off after just 25 minutes.

In short, Nigeria’s place in Qatar is very far from certain, but gaining clarity over the managerial situation is the first step towards preparing for their must-win play-off in March.

While former Venezuela, Porto and Sporting CP boss Peseiro has his share of impressive credentials, it’s perhaps too risky a time for a brand-new mind to enter the Super Eagles set-up.

If there’s any one advantage Eguavoen does boast compared to his apparent rival for the job, it’s a certain familiarity with the current Nigeria squad, which has already produced good results of late.

Nigeria have qualified for six of the previous seven World Cup finals and are within touching distance of featuring in four consecutive editions for the first time in their history, according to bet experts.

There are few doubts the squad carries the potential to compete; now it’s on those in positions of power in the NFF to prove they have the decision-making merit to match.

World Cup 2022 – Outright odds leaders by bet365

Team Odds
France +600
Brazil +650
England +700
Spain +850
Germany +950
Argentina +1000
Italy +1000
Belgium +1100
Netherlands +1600