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A former Nigeria striker, Jonathan Akpoborie, has described the Super Eagles as a fading force and put the blame on out-of-contract coach Stephen Keshi.
The African champions will not be defending their title at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations starting in Equatorial Guinea this month after failing to qualify from the preliminaries as South Africa and Congo grabbed the two tickets from the group.
Akpoborie said the failure represented a dark period in Nigerian football.
“It’s a lose-lose situation for every football lover in Nigeria because we’re not playing at the AFCON. If you follow football, especially in the last two years, and you know what it takes to be the best in the sport, you’ll know that the coach (Keshi) is not good for us or our national team. We won the Nations Cup, yes, but that’s history now,” the former Wolfburg player told our correspondent on Saturday.
“We’ve not improved (in our football) in the last two years, so I don’t know why anyone should bring him back after the Nigeria Football Federation released him.”
He refused to attribute Nigeria’s success at the 2013 AFCON to Keshi’s managerial ability, saying the players should take the credit for the victory.
“You can say it was luck and players’ determination. If you watch the last group game (at the 2013 AFCON against Ethiopia), it was won through individual efforts, especially from Victor Moses. He has not played for Nigeria for some time now, and his absence has created a vacuum in the team. This is why you don’t have to depend on a particular player to get your job done.
“Since Keshi took over, you can hardly find a game in which Nigeria actually played well. That means the team is not good enough.”
Akpoborie insisted that only foreign coaches would be good enough for Nigeria, accusing Nigerian coaches of poor judgement in team selection.
While admitting that Clemens Westerhof and Jo Bonfrere were successful as foreign coaches, he said the others failed because they did not have the quality to manage Nigeria.
He said, “I don’t regret calling for a foreign coach, it’s the best for us. The problem is not about coaching abilities, it’s about the sentiments that drive the Nigerian coaches to do what they’re not supposed to do (in terms of team selection). It’s not just about picking 11 players; it’s a whole lot more than that when putting the team together.
“How many quality foreign coaches have we employed in Nigeria apart from those two (Westerhof and Bonfrere)? Berti Vogts was already finished when they brought him to Nigeria; Lars Lagerback was simply not good enough for the Eagles. Lagerback was not good enough in Europe so how would he be good enough for our boys that played in the topflight in Europe.”
He declined suggesting any foreign coach for the NFF as replacement for Keshi, who is reportedly gunning for the Equatorial Guinea job while also hoping for a contract with Nigeria.
He said, “Getting a foreign coach should not be taken for granted. There’s a process in doing this and we have to go through it little by little if we must get the right coach for Nigeria. There are criteria in selecting coaches, even football directors.
“The NFF will need to deliberate properly on the issue of selecting a coach before going for the best.”