The signs were ominous but we choose to ignore as we so often do, blinded by passion and deep patriotism, choosing instead to believe that miracles would happen.
Once again . . .they did not and we face reality stark in the face.
The Super Eagles loss to Croatia is not a rude awakening. On the contrary, we should have seen it coming. Correction, we did see it coming
After comfortably seeing out the qualifiers, the warm up games prior to the World Cup proper were truly cause for genuine concern (asides the victory over Argentina)
It wasn’t just that we were losing, it was the manner in which we were losing, looking in many of those games like a team without ideas or direction
Against Poland even though we eventually ran away 1-0 winners over a team which included Robert Lewandowsky in their own backyard, one thing became obvious : The Eagles were having challenges with goal scoring.
We did not register a single shot on target against the Poles and our goal came from a contentious penalty. We then faced Serbia and again we had challenges scoring, totally outclassed by the Serbs in a 2-0 defeat
The game against England provided more insights yet, as we made an average England side look like world champions only putting up a bit of a fight after we were 2 goals down and switched formation. We were poor in midfield, we were dreadful defending set pieces and we were slow out of the blocks.
Against the Czechs in our final warm up game our deficiencies in creating chances and in goal scoring were brought to the fore again as we fell 1-0 looking unimaginative and bereft of ideas
More frightening was that these games were seemingly suggesting a slow tactical response from coach Gernot Rohr as it always took long for him to effect changes that were needed with his tactical responses almost coming too late most times
The truth was bare before us: with Rohr in charge we may have excelled against continental opposition but on the International stage we have been poor and the pre world cup warm up games exposed this.
Pundits & critics alike highlighted these flaws, analyzed and proffered solutions and we all looked on hoping that somehow our German tactician could within a couple of days fix our obvious deficiencies . . . .we hoped for too much
Now those deficiencies are back to haunt us in the world cup proper. Our performance was downright dreadful. Like one major headline wrote “The Croatians strolled past us to victory . . . Uncontested”
We were a team bereft of ideas and creativity often looking lost with the ball and unsure of how best to proceed, a team once revered for its attacking prowess could only manage 2 shots on target
None of our concerns have been fixed and all our flaws have come back to haunt us. Rohr is still slow in response, Iwobi is still wasted on the wings, Mikel should be benched or deployed deeper, the team is still unable to come out of the blocks firing, the uninspired tepidness still exists, the team still cannot score or get adequate shots on targets . . . .it’s all the same nothing has changed
All this despite one of our best ever preparations , with a federation that has come to the table and done all it should do . . . .there is frankly nowhere else to lay the blame than at the feet of the workman in charge of the team and the way he chooses to employ his tools
Qualifying from this group is not impossible yet, maybe our Miracle could still happen otherwise . . . the way we are now, we are staring not just at an embarrassing early return home, but a World Cup that could go down as our worst ever!