Coach Sunday Oliseh will be having his first taste of competitive football action this afternoon, when he leads the Super Eagles to battle Tanzania in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Dar es Salaam National Stadium.
For Oliseh, who has 17 foreign based players ad six home-based available for the must-win match, it is his first big test as a coach, having had prior stints working with third division Belgian side Royal Cercle Sportif Verviétois between 2008 and 2009 and working as the sports director at Königliche Allgemeine Sportvereinigung Eupen, a Belgian second division side.The former Eagles captain will be attempting to hit the ground running against the Tafia Stars and possibly upstage Egypt at the top of the group as both sides currently have three points, with the record African champions ahead on goals difference. They play Chad this weekend.
Despite holding a UEFA Pro Licence, these were Oliseh’s greatest achievements as a coach and the true worth of his coaching acumen would be proven today when he side confront a relatively weak Tafia Stars.
Oliseh comes across as a sound technical person when analysing football on television and working as a member of the FIFA Technical Study Group during tournaments but Nigerians will have a bird’s eye view of the former Julius Berger midfielder, who has his work cut out for him as tries to justify the confidence that the Amaju Pinnick-led NFF Executive reposed on him when they named him Eagles coach after Stephen Keshi’s sack.
And the NFF will be hoping things work in their favour today as they seek to return the country to the continental fiesta after the failure of the previous board led by Aminu Maigari to qualify the country for the 2015 edition in Equatorial Guinea.
The game is also going to be the first cap of most of the players selected by Coach Oliseh after he left out some of the known players like Mikel Obi and Victor Moses from his list.
The coast seems a little bit hazy for the Eagles with the late withdrawal of team captain and first choice goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama who within the week informed the football authorities of his desire to be excused from the encounter.
But one curious issue with the Enyeama withdrawal is the seeming lack of cordial relationship between him and he coach. This is because our investigation revealed that the Lille of France keeper was said to have called and informed his assistant captain, Ahmed Musa of his desire to stay away from Tanzania following the death of his mother.
But on his on the other hand, Oliaseh had told journalists in Abuja last Wednesday that he did not know why his captain withdrew from the important fixture.
“Enyeama asked to be withdrawn from this game and it has put me in a very tight situation because I must confess that the task ahead of us is a very difficult one and I didn’t need this extra burden. We’re practically starting this team from the scratch, it’s not very pleasant but that’s life,” Oliseh had lamented.
The absence of Enyeama will surely leave Oliseh with no better choice but to field related unknown Wolverhampton of England goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme who incidentally is coming to the national team for the very first time.
Apart from Enyeama, another high profile withdrawal is Italy based midfielder, Joel Obi who according to Oliseh is out due to an injury.
Many analysts have expressed reservations concerning the players invited for the match; apart from the fact that some notable players like the duo of Chelsea of England players, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses were left out, Oliseh also ignored inform Watford of England striker, Odion Ighalo for some near spent forces who are even finding it difficult to hold down a starting shirt even in some lesser leagues.
Importantly, judging from the training of the team as monitored in Abuja, it is very obvious that most of the players invited were a little bit heavy and flat footed a development most analysts say may not augur well for the team.
But according to Oliseh, the team is still in the building process even as he must realize that while we are building Nigeria must keep an eye on Egypt, who after missing out from the last two editions of AFCON are doing every possible to snatch the group’s ticket for the fiesta.
Tanzania from all indications are taking the game seriously hence they sent their team on a training tour of Turkey to prepare for the Nigerians.
All their star players including Elias Maguli and Thomas Ulimwengu will be in action.
Eagles must therefore endeavour to win the match if they must keep a tab on the Egyptians who are topping the group G after defeating Tanzania 3-0 in Cairo.