Bad Abuja pitch prevented a detailed assessment of new coach Jose Peseiro and his men, but the beautiful lush-green grass in Agadir, Morocco, will surely attract applause or hard knocks for the new Super Eagles going forward, IKENWA NNABUOGOR writes…
Jose Peseiro managed to eke out a slim win for his new team, 2-1 winners against hard-fighting Leone Stars from the west coast in a 2023 AFCON qualifier after taking a double defeat into the cracker in Abuja.
The game announcing Eagles first major engagement on the pitch after they allowed bitter rivals, Ghana, pull a successful “heist” before their home fans in Abuja in March to defect to Qatar, wasn’t a good sight deserving of the moniker ‘Super Eagles’.
The poor playing surface also conspired to make the sight uglier as Peseiro’s men galloped away desperately to outscore the spirited Leone Stars, but still managed to hand the 62-year-old former Venezuela coach his first win.
A win is a win and maximum points in the bag, but the Eagles were far from a cheer in the evening they fought with everything to break the resolute Leone Stars defence, who were in Abuja looking for an upset.
The bad pitch didn’t help the critical fans to access Peseiro who got a lot in his plate – first, inheriting a team that failed to hit Qatar 2022 and then a team struggling to keep their ‘Super’ tag.
But things have not really gone so bad for Peseiro with just three games gone and expecting a fourth on Monday, the coming games will paint a clearer picture if he is the man for the top job.
Stade Adrar in Agadir, Morocco, welcomes Peseiro and his men once again as the Eagles continue their journey to Cote d’Ivoire on matchday 2 of the 2023 AFCON qualifiers, for a better chance to check out Peseiro’s Eagles and see if the new coach was really worth all the trouble.
The magnificent stadium seats 45,480 spectators and was one of the 14 stadiums presented by Morocco for their 2026 World Cup bid. It offers a lush-green grass for exciting football and Peseiro’s men will be hard pressed to win convincingly and comfortably to set the tone for their new handler going forward.
Eagles “hosts” Sao Tome & Principe will take a long tortuous walk in the wilderness to come any close to Eagles pedigree in world football and on paper, it will be unthinkable for an upset of any colour.
In as much as it will be utterly disrespectful to dismiss the tiny Island-nation, Eagles will be expected to nick this and bag the maximum points on their march to Cote d’Ivoire 2023.
Peseiro’s headaches going into this Agadir game remain interesting as his preoccupation is to prove he will get the Eagles flying again and flying well with their beautiful plumage as any faltering will deal his time here a big blow.
His records in Venezuela and Saudi Arabia raised a serious red flag for stake holders of football as they fumed that Peseiro is an average coach that could hardly fly with the three-time African champions, who at a time were ranked the fifth best team in the world.
Fans’ fears were worth it more so the commando style with which the job was handed to the Portuguese despite the interests of much more illustrious coaches like ex-Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde and Philip Cocu.
That’s really where Peseiro’s challenges lie and he will have to start taking them head long with one mission statement: bring back the Eagles glory days.
Immediate past coach Augustine “Cerezo” Eguavoen raised the bar in his first three games in charge and fans were back to proclaiming them potential world beaters, but the bar was suddenly lowered as the Eagles were back to struggling again even against less illustrious countries.
A tough shift for Peseiro indeed, even if it takes him to bring on some magic to turn a beautiful bride, this task before him, isn’t an easy ride.
But the Eagles should make his job easier: These players hog the headlines in Europe for the right reasons and Peseiro will have to prove he can make them world beaters too in his team.
From Victor Osimhen, Emmanuel Dennis, Simon Moses, Samuel Chukwueze to Sadiq Umar, the European transfer market window is buzzing again for Nigerian talent and that ought to be music in the ears of any coach.
And not forgetting some Anglo-Nigerian players who are still on the team’s wish list.
Crystal Palace winger Eberechi Eze leads the diaspora players on the wish list and should their allegiances switch, Peseiro will be spoilt for options to make his job a lot easier.
Indeed, Peseiro got the world at his feet to make himself a well sought after coach by the time he will be done with the Eagles.
But before then, he has to get down to brass tacks and the lush pitch in Agadir will set the tone for this.
He will be expected not to disappoint so as to begin to enjoy the confidence of the fans.