After finishing a credible third in a first African Nations Championship outing back in 2014, much was expected of the home based Super Eagles moving a step further and go for ultimate glory in Rwanda but in what no one really saw coming, the Eagles exited from the group stage and Nigerians were swift in shifting the blame on Sunday Oliseh.
Is it really time to start criticising the former Super Eagles skipper to the point of calling him to quit and have Stephen Keshi back?
In the group C opener against Niger, we enjoyed some of the best football seen in years with a convincing 4-1 triumph, something the A team might not have replicated. Indeed, the A team might not have been so superb against the same opposition. It was never going to be easy in the next game against giants and tournament favourites Tunisia but we got a draw and no one could complain. Then came Guinea in the final group game, only a draw was needed to progress but it was never to be and Oliseh’s boys returned home way earlier than expected.
One of the criticisms levied against Oliseh is that he has no knowledge of the local league and didn’t bring his best team to the tournament. The squad selection was done by Salisu Yusuf and it was better he took the reins on the dugout but could Yusuf have motivated the boys to the Niger win or the Tunisia draw? Assuming Nigeria drew with Guinea and progressed, Oliseh might not have received much criticism.
Some of the players underperformed particularly Jamiu Alimi and Tunde Adeniji who failed to impress after given second chances. You can’t however take away the fact that the likes of Chisom Chikatara, Ifeanyi Matthew, Osas Okoro, Prince Aggreh, Austin Oboroakpo and Chima Akas put in some fine displays.
Let’s also not forget the players and the coaching staff were not paid prior to the tournament and this is something that shouldn’t happen at this stage. How do you expect a man to perform efficiently on an empty stomach? Is it until someone starts a revolt like Cameroon have done in recent times before the NFF acts right?
Some have claimed that Oliseh is not tactically sound but we forgot how he was praised for his substitutions against Niger. Taking a look at his record since he took over from Keshi and prior to the CHAN tournament, in eight games, Oliseh’s men had recorded four wins, three draws and a solitary loss, scoring nine and conceding two. Is that a poor record for a rookie coach that has no tactical knowledge and only knows punditry?
If Oliseh isn’t the right choice for manager then who is? It’s a surprise some say Keshi should come back even after his misadventures. Maybe those who criticise Oliseh’s position should fill in and see how it is to take on one of the toughest jobs in Africa. The position of Super Eagles boss comes with huge expectations often messianic but that can’t happen, it takes a lot of work and Oliseh hasn’t done too badly even though things can be much better.
He needs to improve on his public image by handling issues with players carefully. Vincent Enyeama’s sudden retirement from the national team following a rift with Oliseh wasn’t a good one at all. Oliseh also needs to be careful of statements he makes in the media circles. The recent comments he made calling his critics ‘insane’ hasn’t gone too well with the public and the football authorities. If care isn’t taken he could land himself in hot water and lose his job faster than he thinks having been in charge for just seven months.
It’s still too early to say Sunday Oliseh should be sacked. CHAN 2016 was just his first tournament and since there were positives to take from Rwanda, the gaffer would have drawn lessons from the tourney and know what not to do next time. There’s still 2017 African Cup of Nations and 2018 World Cup qualification to contend with, therefore how events unfold will determine if Oliseh is sound and is the right man for the job. Till then, let’s keep supporting him and the boys in progressing to the respective tourneys rather than jump into fast conclusions.