Former Super Eagles’ assistant coach, Joe Erico, has identified the leadership crisis in the Nigeria Football Federation as the distraction which caused Nigeria’s 3-2 loss to Congo in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Calabar on Sunday.
Nigeria are currently third in Group A of the qualifiers behind South Africa, who beat Sudan 3-0 on Friday, and Congo who also have three points from their victory.
It was the second time in history Congo would defeat Nigeria in ten meetings; Nigeria have beaten the Red Devils five times in the past.
“The team played well, and the loss was just a goal margin. But I believe they can play better and show more determination,” Erico told the News Agency of Nigeria.
“I guess part of the reason for the loss was the fact that the boys were not focused, in view of the power tussle in the Nigeria Football Federation.’’
Erico said with teamwork, the team would rise up to the occasion and would get back to winning ways.
“I believe that there is still room for improvement. I think it is not over yet, the boys just have to believe in themselves with defensive solidarity and teamwork,” he said.
Former Flying Eagles coach, John Obuh, said it would be harsh for anyone to blame coach Stephen Keshi for the defeat, pointing out that the players failed to raise their game.
“It’s easy for fans to crucify a coach after such defeat at home, but judging Keshi, who brought Nigerian football out of the wilderness it found itself, by a game is harsh, very harsh,” Obuh told SL10.
“It’s good thing to have another game immediately after such an unbelievable result, it’s an opportunity to respond to the setback.
“It won’t be easy in South Africa, but I believe the boys and the technical crew are well aware that a good result will help win back public support and confidence.”
Meanwhile, Super Eagles stand-in captain Austin Ejide has admitted the African champions paid dearly for underrating Congo in the Saturday match.
“I will say we underrated Congo and we paid for it. We were not aggressive. Had we played the way we did in the second half right from start, it would have been a different story,” the Israel-based goalkeeper said.
“Congo were better prepared than us, they came at us; there was fire in their eyes. They played like they were playing at home. Our reaction was poor.
“We hope to reclaim our three points in South Africa.”
On Wednesday, Nigeria will be away to Group A leaders South Africa, who won 3-0 in Sudan on Friday, while Congo welcome Sudan.
Nigeria will meet South Africa on Wednesday in Cape Town, while Congo will host Sudan same day.
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