AFCON 2024: Why Jose Peseiro isn’t ready

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Nigeria’s ambitions to win a fourth Africa Cup of Nations title has received very wide media coverage and perhaps like no other time than in the few months since the appointment of Jose Peseiro.

Peseiro, 62, landed his biggest national team job on the continent since spells in Asia and South America with Saudi Arabia and Venezuela respectively.

The Portuguese coach is determined to etch his name not just in African football folklore, but by extension build a respectable resume.

Hence, it’ll be accurate to argue that Jose Peseiro’s reputation to a degree depends on his success with Nigeria.

Only one indigenous Coach had won a major honor with the Super Eagles, past wins in 1980 and 1994 were secured by Brazilian Otto Glória and Dutchman Clemens Westerhoff.

A distinct similarity of the two teams was that the possessed great attacking talent and excelled playing zonal football with emphasis on the wing. The other distinct feature was the stone walled defensive lines.

In the first tournament, as host Nation in 1980, the Eagles conceded just one goal in 5 games on their way to picking up a first ever AFCON title.

When Westerhoff took the Eagles to Tunisia in 1994, in the course of their run to the title, the Super Eagles conceded 3goals (5games) in regular time; twice in the semi-final against Ivory Coast and once in the final.

Playing against the top African teams can be pretty daunting as Peseiro would have come to realized facing Algeria, or even more from the World Cup in Qatar where he has been “learning”.

If Nigeria’s title ambition in 2024 was a steep climb when he was appointed, the performance of Africa’s Five in Qatar puts them ahead as clear favorites, owing to the teething problems of Peseiro’s under-construction Super Eagles.

Incisively, one area of the team that seem an obvious and potential Achilles heel is the Center back positions.

Age, inconsistency in form and uncertain club futures might leave the Coach little choice but to chop and chang, hoping to find the perfect pairing to marshal the defence.

Casting one’s mind back to 1980, Nigeria had Christian Chukwu at 29 year-old and also the captain, he had the leadership to guide Okey Isima, David Adiele, Tunde Bamidele and Sylvanus Okpala.

Similarly, although he was injured and never fully fit, Stephen Keshi (32) had Augustine Eguavoen (28), Uchez Okechukwu (26) as capable deputies at the AFCON in 1994.

With the current team, whilst it’s assumed the Coach should be spoilt for choice, there’s a genuine selection headache as the regulars aren’t consistent and the understudies are often overlooked.

Nigeria’s CB options are a number of interesting young figures including, Kevin Akpoguma, Oluwasemilogo Ajayi, Chidozie Awaziem, Olisa Ndah, Valentine Ozornwafor and Calvin Bassey.

But finding leaders or player’s with special attributes among the listed names narrows the options drastically and it could require casting the net wider, even convincing more foreign born Players to switch international allegiance.

The era of Nigeria’s Oyinbo Wall of Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong, has inevitably reached its twilight; its integrity has been compromised over the years with injuries and father time beckoning on Balogun – the Wall’s real pillar.

Kenneth Omeruo, the chip, is also on the last leg of his international career, but losing these veterans ought to be a major concern for the Super Eagles coaches.

Regardless, keeping them on for one last swan song and not getting upgrades in time to build chemistry, will be the first sign of a failed 2024 AFCON ambition for Jose Peseiro.

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