By Alexander Johnson Adejoh
Following the public uproar against the appointment of a foreign coach for the senior national team, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is now favourably disposed to upgrade Austine Eguavoen as the Super Eagles substantive manager, Fides report.
The 56-year-old Eguavoen served as the team’s caretaker coach to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations where the Super Eagles posted a commanding performance in the first round as the Super Eagles won three successive matches against Egypt, Sudan and Guinea Bissau against all odds.
Despite being shown the AFCON exit following the narrow 1-0 loss to Tunisia, feelers suggest that the Amaju Pinnick-led NFF board might be made to make a volte-face on its pre-AFCON decision on Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro as replacement for sacked German Gernot Rohr.
‘I don’t think the NFF would complete the signing of Peseiro as the coach of the Super Eagles,” a high ranking member of the NFF Board told NationSports on anonymity.
‘Of course, discussion are still on-going and the NFF and the Sports Ministry are still looking at the best decision under the prevailing circumstance after Eguavoen impressive performance with the Super Eagles in Cameroon.
‘Of course, not many was impressed with the performance of the team in that Round of 16 loss to Tunisia last Sunday but majority of the NFF board members believe Eguavoen can do better with time; especially with the crucial Qatar 2022 World Cup play-off coming up in March.
‘Unless, things change dramatically again, Eguavoen would most likely continue as Super Eagles coach because no board member as at today want to hear anything about Peseiro,” he added.
Incidentally, NFF President Pinnick recently suggested that there was a possibility that Eguavoen could be named as substantive coach of the team should the Super Eagles put up a creditable performance in Cameroon.
‘We know that Eguavoen can do the job expertly, but we also know that he will be more useful controlling the technical department,’ Pinnick said ahead of the AFCON, adding : ‘If Eguavoen wins the Cup of Nations, we might have a rethink. In that case, the foreign coach would become the technical director.’ But our correspondent gathered that the NFF are even now pressed to jettison the hiring of Peseiro in any capacity with the words rife that a Nigerian with an impeccable pedigree and technical nous might eventually be considered.
Incidentally, Nigeria is now blessed with a crop of former internationals with impressive resume to be so appointed as head of the NFF technical department in case Eguavoen is given the carte blanche to handle the Super Eagles.
The likes of former Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh and former Tanzania national team coach Emmanuel Amuneke are some of the names being peddled as likely replacement for Eguavoen.
Meanwhile, respected football administrator Mazi Amanze Uchegbulam has yet made a clarion call on the NFF not to toy with Super Eagles’ qualification for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup by allowing Eguavoen to thinker the team for the forthcoming crucial play off against the Black stars of Ghana in March.
Going forward, Uchegbulam who is the current Imo state Football Association Chairman, said Eguavoen should be allowed to continue following the impressive showing in Cameroon.
‘The coach (Eguavoen) , having shown the capacity to change the mentality of the players during the preliminary round matches at the AFCON , should select a 23 man ‘killer squad’ for the match against Ghana in Accra,’ Uchegbulam told NationSports.
‘I will also suggest that Eguavoen should as a matter of fact get in touch with Prof Ken Anugweje at the UNIPORT High Performance Centre and camp the Super Eagles before going for the game in Accra.
‘I believe Prof Ken Anugweje who’s about the best sports doctor in the country can help prepare the team for high intensity play, which is the way they should approach the match in Accra.
‘We need to win the game in Accra to put fear into Ghana to make reverse feature a mere formality.
‘Augustine Eguavoen can do it and the federation should let him be.”
Uchegbulam further suggested that it’s about time the Super Eagles have a sterling leader on the pitch and he has endorsed Leicester City’s defender Wilfred Ndidi, a former U-17 and U-20 Vice-captain, to lead the Super Eagles henceforth.
‘Secondly, the team needs a captain that would be a commander on the field and not bench warming leader,” Uchegbulam further said.
‘He must be influential on the field to push the players; and looking at the whole set up of the Super Eagles, I think Ndidi should fit in for that assignment.
‘No more politics and sentiments, the play-off match against Ghana is a do or die assignment because without Qatar 2022 World Cup, our football is going to suffer,’ he noted.