AFCON 2019 Daily Diary – Day 6

There was celebration all over Nigeria last night. It must have extended to Nigerian homes abroad. Whenever the Super Eagles win a good match there is always a massive celebration in the land.  Incidentally, the least celebration took place in the camp of the Super Eagles in Egypt. This is because the real celebration will take place when the final match is over and won.  No one expects less than that anymore from the Eagles now that they have raised peoples confidence, hope and higher expectations with reassuring performances laced with confidence, maturity and some delightful individual artistry.

So, beyond the ecstatic jubilation on the field of play when ‘man-of-the-match’ Kenneth Omeruo scored his very first goal for the Eagles with a perfect, near-post glancing header, and the singing and hugging that followed in the dressing room right after the match in the bowels of the magnificent Alexandria stadium, the Super Eagles were in a happy but relatively guarded celebratory mood back in their hotel as they retired to their rooms last night. Even that celebration will be short, diminishing steadily through the night and by this morning things will return back to normalcy as preparations for the next match begins.  That’s the atmosphere in the Super Eagles hotel this morning – everything has returned to normalcy. 

It is breakfast this morning, as usual, the postmortem team-talk after that, settlement of match bonuses (hopefully), physical recovery and medical treatment for knocks and bruises.  The greater work lies with the technical team. Gernot Rohr and his assistants will not celebrate, rest or sleep as the strategizing for the next match has already begun.  Everyone predicts that the match next Sunday against Madagascar will be the easiest for the Super Eagles having already qualified with one match to go and nothing at stake for both teams in the match. The Eagles have already qualified for the round of 16, and Madagascar cannot qualify for the next round even if they ‘miraculously’ defeat the Eagles.

My message to the players through my ‘fly on the wall’ this morning is that the Madagascar match must be used to further fine-tune the emerging new Super Eagles. The focus will be using the match to improve the team’s technical discipline and organization.  The team must get stronger, better and more cohesive with every passing match until they can unleash the full orchestra of the very delightful football they appear to be capable of playing in the final match where winning the trophy becomes real. With what I have seen, this Super Eagles ensemble has the potential in individual player quality to get to the finals and win it.  In Egypt, this morning, apart from the very relaxed atmosphere around the hotel, and unless something new and of substance takes place before the end of today, there is little else to report.

Congratulations Super Eagles and all Nigerians.

Segun Odegbami