IKENWA NNABUOGOR casts another look at how interim coach Augustine Eguavoen has brought positive changes to the Super Eagles at the AFCON in Cameroon…
It appears coach Augustine Eguavoen had hatched plans to breathe new life into the Super Eagles even before the Nigeria Football Federation decided to fire Gernot Rohr.
This is evident with the breathtaking attacking brand of football he has brought back to the team that saw them beat mighty Egypt and tough-playing Sudan to advance to the second round.
An older and wiser ‘Cerezo’ refused to come with the daggers to force discipline, which had taken a walk from the team while Rohr’s time was ticking down, but wore a smile of a ‘big brother’ with a strong mission statement to bring back discipline and get the team back to winning in fine style.
This has worked tremendously as the team have stung themselves into action by playing confidently and reminding fans of the glorious golden era of the 90s.
Stories of sex parties ahead of a crucial final group game of the 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde in Lagos were not music to the ears as Eagles laboriously fought out a stalemate just good enough for a play-off ticket.
What would have become of the team had NFF not thrown out Rohr as the team continued to disappoint with every game?
‘Cerezo’ would only see the amusing side of the idea of NFF bringing back the Code of Conduct to instill discipline among the players, but rather quashing it and bringing on his man-management ideas which have positively affected the team.
“The players are no kids, not U-17 players, they’re leaders in their homes and are expected to show same in the team,” ‘Cerezo’ had hinted.
“The players should see me as their brother, big brother, father and friend and the coaching crew as their colleague but boundaries should not be overstepped.”
‘Big brother’ Eguavoen moved first time on assuming his interim role by introducing the most conducive friendly atmosphere by asking the players how they played, the formation, their ideas going forward and the result was the 100 percent record so far in the group game.
The wing play which was close to Eguavoen’s heart was also welcomed by the players, resulting in Moses Simon and Villarreal ace Samuel Chukwueze bagging full license from Eguavoen to fire the team with full force.
Flexibility is also part of new plans of ‘Cerezo’ and that has allowed the team communicate so effectively with or without the ball, stiffling and frustrating opponents’ plans and winning games.
Even the weakest link in the Eagles – the midfield – has also caught Eguavoen’s “big brother” bug to transform them into a well-oiled engine that connects the defence, prompts the attack while also keeping things tight.
How did ‘Cerezo’ turbo-charge Glasgow Rangers’ star midfielder Joe Ayodele-Aribo to fire up the hitherto weak engines?
Aribo, who could be mistaken as a Mr. World contestant or a TV commercial actor, has turned into a warrior overnight, combining perfectly with Leicester City ace Wilfred Ndidi in the grafting duties, even grinding out tackles, winning balls, distributing them and sniffing at goal.
It appears only injury and a wicked loss of form will prevent Aribo from keeping his place in the Eagles midfield for some time to come.
What magic did ‘Cerezo’ also do in the Eagles’ back four of which he too, was a tough member in his hey days?
Watford star and stand-in captain William Troost-Ekong is rejuvenated, so is almost forgotten Kenneth Omeruo, who benefited from the injury-forced absence of Leon Balogun to remind fans he’s got some robust defending still left in him.
Shehu Abdullahi may have kissed Eagles goodbye as Torino defender Ola Aina seems to have conspired with Eguavoen to lock down the right back position at least for now judging by the former Chelsea starlet’s breathtaking confidence, skill and mobility on that role.
Not also forgetting Zaidu Sanusi at left back, Eguavoen has, within a short time built a good wall around the defence line and the actors seem to strike better understanding compared to Rohr’s time.
Eagles brand of attacking football with effective blend of wing plays under Eguavoen has truly caught the eye.
Though it’s too early to crown Eguavoen’s Eagles the AFCON champions, his positive changes will always be remembered for a long time to come.
Who even knows NFF could be forced to get Eguavoen swap his roles with newly-appointed Eagles coach Jose Peseiro?