… there won’t be holiday for Super Eagles – Enoh

With the conclusion of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON, Nigeria’s footballing gaze now shifts towards the future, particularly the impending 2026 World Cup Qualifiers against South Africa and Benin Republic in June.

One burning question lingers about the key areas Super Eagles manager Jose Peseiro must bolster to ensure success on the international stage.

Also, the quest for legendary Nigeria goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama’s successor in the Super Eagles squad finally reached its resolution following Stanley Nwabali’s display at the 2023 AFCON in Ivory Coast.

Recalls that Nigeria lost 2-1 to Ivory Coast in the final of the 2023 AFCON played on Sunday night.

Ivory Coast came from behind to beat the Super Eagles, thanks to second-half goals from Franck Kessie and Sebastien Haller.

Captain William Troost-Ekong scored for Nigeria in the first half.

However, as Nigeria prepares for the arduous journey ahead, strategic planning, astute recruitment, and meticulous preparation will be pivotal in overcoming obstacles and realizing its aspirations of World Cup qualification.

Peseiro and his coaching staff face a formidable task, but with the right approach and unwavering determination, the Super Eagles can soar to new heights on the international stage.

The post-AFCON puzzle presents a myriad of priorities, including key areas to improve, from solidifying the goalkeeping position to fine-tuning tactical strategies and nurturing young talents.

Speaking with Daily Post on the subject matter on Monday, Ochiba Football Club coach, Emmanuel Brown said the Super Eagles under Peseiro need to improve the midfield.

According to Brown, Peseiro must identify players capable of dictating play and maintaining possession in the midfield area.

“I must confess that it [AFCON 2023] was a good outing for the Super Eagles. I never expected Nigeria to reach the final. One thing that is constant in life is change,” Brown said.

Also speaking with Daily Post, Charles Ogundiya of New Telegraph said the left-back and the midfield areas need to be improved going forward.

When asked if Nwabali has what it takes to fill Enyeama’s shoes, Ogundiya added, “People keep forgetting that there was a particular goalkeeper that came after Vincent Enyeama, and that is Carl Ikeme. Carl Ikeme was the answer to the Super Eagles’ goalkeeping problem. It was so unfortunate that he had that disease that stopped him from playing football.

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“I am telling you he was a perfect replacement for Enyeama. But looking at Nwabali. Nwabali has shown that he has what it takes to mount that post for the Super Eagles. He was there for the team during the AFCON and don’t forget that this is a player who, a few months ago, was playing for Enyimba in Nigeria before moving to South Africa, and they feel that nothing good will come out of the local league.

“This guy has shown that we have players that can play. The Super Eagles need players who have a heart for Africa, and that is what Nwabali has done.

“Yes, he made his mistakes too, but at least he saved the day, and that is the important thing. Enyeama, too, had his own ups and downs during his time. So, it is common for goalkeepers.

“For me, the Super Eagles need to look for someone to compete with him. So that in case of injury, there will be somebody to replace him. Just like when the team used to have the likes of Rufai, Ike Shorunmu, Enyeama, and Austin Ejide, let’s have that kind of competition in the goalkeeping department.”

Meanwhile, the Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh on Tuesday said that there will not be any holiday for the Super Eagles as they prepare for the African Games in March, World Cup qualifiers in June and the Olympics in July.

Senator Enoh stated this while speaking with Vanguard shortly after he led the delegation of the Super Eagles, who were the first runner-up in the just concluded African Cup of Nations, AFCON, hosted by Cote d’Ivoire, to the presidential Villa, Abuja.

The Minister said though Nigerians had expected the Super Eagles to win the AFCON, the team in about eleven years ago had not performed the way, it did in the just concluded tournament.

He also said that the players and the entire crew were surprised with the reward they got from President Bola Tinubu as they never had any inkling that such a reward would come their way.

Recall that at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, where President Tinubu received the players, the officials of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), as well as the technical crew of the Super Eagles, the President rewarded them with national award, Member Order of the Niger, MON, flats for each of them from the government housing project, and plots of land from the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, Nyesom Wike.

Reacting to the President’s gesture, the Minister of Sports Development said, “I think that the President has lived true to type. I mean, the incentives he announced for the team were overwhelming, and I’m not sure even the players themselves expected what he announced for them.

“That’s the hallmark of a president who’s a sports-loving president, and who is happy with the outcome of the AFCON.”

Speaking on the outcome of the AFCON, Senator Enoh said, “And about the competition, AFCON happens every two years, so let me say that since for about the last 11 years, we have not come out the way we have in this last AFCON and things like that.

“Don’t forget, we may have won silver. It wasn’t what we expected. But the last time we won Silver was 24 years ago. I believe the boys did well no doubt. They may not have played as good as we expected in the finals. But that is how sports is. That is how football is.

“I’m glad with the kind of support that the team received from Nigerians. My hope is that we will be able to sustain this winning momentum and continue to relive back the glorious past that we’ve had in football and in sports generally.”

On the efforts of the Ministry to ensure that the team comes top in subsequent competitions, the Minister said, “Well, we are returning to work immediately, there is no holiday for us, there is no added period for us. I mean, in March, we’re going to Accra for the African games, in June, the World Cup qualifiers would start again and in July we’re going for the Olympics in Paris, so it’s going to be a whole lot, full of activities and hard work.”