Former Arsenal coach, Arsene Wenger has hinted that the Super Eagles conceded two ‘childish’ goals against Croatia simply because the Nigerian team is loaded with many inexperienced players, who he said are like kids.
While taking a general look at the possibility of any unexpected team pulling off a shock in becoming champions at Russia 2018, Wenger said it will take a squad of players with an average age of 28 to pull off such a feat, not youngsters.
As if to back Wenger’s verdict, two of Nigeria’s players under the age of 25, Oghenekaro Etebo and William Troost-Ekong were culpable the two goals Nigeria conceded against Croatia last weekend.
Wenger stated that the average age of World Cup winning teams is 28 years, which is 2.1 years more than Nigeria’s average age as the youngest squad in Russia.
The French gaffer stated further that successful teams must have experienced defenders in order to stand any chance of winning the global soccer diadem.
However, the average age of Nigeria’s ideal starting back four (Shehu, Balogun, Troost-Ekong and Idowu) is 26 years, with the Brighton newbie the oldest at 29 years.
France are the second youngest nation in the World Cup, with an average age of 26 years, just behind Nigeria, and Wenger was asked how much it will weigh on the results.
Wenger expatiated: “It’s a real handicap. When you look at the average age of the national teams that have won the World Cup, it’s still around 27-28 years old.
”After, it depends where there is the youth: when it is in attack, it is not a problem. When it’s behind, it’s a real problem. But our defenders are not inexperienced either.”
Ironically, while speaking in a separate forum, Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr admitted that nine of the players he named in the starting line-up were nervous playing their first World Cup match against Croatia last weekend, and this contributed to their loss to the Balkans.
The Eagles stars that started a World Cup game for the first time in their careers are : Francis Uzoho, Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun, Abdullahi Shehu, Brian Idowu, Oghenekaro Etebo, Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi and Odion Ighalo.
Rohr disclosed: ”Nine out of the 11 players in the starting line-up against Croatia played their first World Cup match.
”Of course, nerves played a role there. But we worked on our set-pieces – both the offensive and the defensive ones. We know that we need to improve them.
”Our group is a tough one – the best in this World Cup, in my opinion. We should always keep that in mind. Croatia has one of the best midfields in the world.
”If you consider that, our organization wasn’t so bad. Croatia’s first goal was an own goal. Their first shot on target was in the 71st minute and it was a penalty. Therefore, we need to stay calm and focus on the next game.”