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‘These Eagles lack the passion needed to play Nigeria’

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Nigeria’s midfielder John Obi Mikel (C) and Nigeria’s forward Samuel Kalu (R) attend a training session in Alexandria, northern Egypt, on June 21, 2019, on the eve of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Nigeria and Burundi. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

A Nigerian supporter following the Super Eagles at the on-going African Cup of Nations, Tony Oniwaro wants players from the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) to be given the opportunity to play for the senior national team because, according to him, he is yet to see the Nigerian spirit in the current team in Egypt.

Nigeria is preparing for its last group game at the Total Africa Cup of Nations against Madagascar on Sunday. The Eagles currently top Group B of the AFCON with six points, while their next opponents, Madagascar, are second with four points.

The Malagasy are one of the revelations of the competition. The debutants held one of the favourites, Guinea to a draw and defeated Burundi and defeated Burundi 1-0 to stand behind Nigeria on the log. They need only a draw to qualify for the second round automatically, but even a low score loss could see them through even if Guinea overcome Burundi on Sunday.

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According to Oniwaro, who spoke to The Guardian at the biggest shopping mall in Alexandria, behind the Mediterranean Sea, the Eagles he has watched so far lack the fighting spirit associated with the Nigerian men’s senior national team.

“I have been travelling around the world supporting the Super Eagles, but I have not seen a team lacking in fighting spirit like this one. My issue with the Eagles is that they don’t take their chances whenever they meet any of the minnows in African football.

“If you are playing against a smaller country in football, you go all out for the kill. These minnows don’t have the quality of players we have, even the ones we have on the bench. Our bench is better than most of these countries’ players.

They need to take their chances; they need to gamble more,” he said, adding that that the players need to be more aggressive.

“I will understand if they were playing against a big country, they can be cautious… but not against these smaller countries. The Eagles shouldn’t sit back after scoring a goal, they should finish them off,” he said.

Oniwaro also complained about the goalkeeping position, saying he is not a fan of Daniel Akpeyi because of his past record in the national team.

“I am not comfortable with this guy called Akpeyi because the guy is always jittery. I believe there are many better goalkeepers in Nigeria. We need to get more local players that are ready to die for this nation.

“Most of the Eagles that I have watched feel too big to play for the country. And once they start feeling this way, it means you are not ready to give your best to the country.

“My advice to coach Gernot Rohr is to not feature such players, who are not ready to give their best.

“Take for instance, Ghana in their opening game, despite playing one man down, they still played their hearts out in order to win their first game. That is the passion I am talking about. I am here to cheer the team and I wish them best of luck,” he stated.


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