Former Nigeria coach Adegboye Onigbinde has said the Super Eagles’ defence and midfield need strengthening ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup for the team to succeed at the quadrennial event.
Nigeria qualified for their sixth World Cup last week after they defeated Zambia 1-0 in a qualifier at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo. The Eagles top their group with 13 points and have yet to lose any match in the qualifiers, with one game left to play.
Former Eagles coach Onigbinde, who spoke with our correspondent on Friday, said Eagles coach Gernot Rohr should look for reinforcements for those areas, adding that the country could go on to win the World Cup if the right things were done.
“The qualification for the World Cup with a match to spare is a good thing but it is a different thing to qualify and another to do well at the competition. The Eagles have a technical team employed to ensure they do well at competitions and I believe they know what to do,” he said.
“The team can go on to win the World Cup next year if the right things are done. The coach needs to look into the team and strengthen the weak areas in the defence and midfield. The team look good but when they face a better team than those they have played, they may crumble.”
Onigbinde believes that the current team have what it takes to go beyond the round of 16 but cautioned against the pursuit of players of Nigerian descent for the team.
He said, “The qualifiers are tough for the team but they were able to scale through because they played as a team. The team spirit needs to be kept intact. The team should come first rather than individual glory. Playing at the World Cup is the goal of every player but they need to realise that they can go farther if they play as a team.
“At the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan, I went with a couple of untested players but they were able to hold theirs against the likes of England. I believe that if I had fielded the team that played against England in our first two matches, Nigeria would have gone farther than the group stage.”
He added, “I have always said that Nigeria, where we have a population of over 150 million people, where talents abound in every corner, the football federation should not be busy running after made products all over the world, they should build the ones at home. We cannot deny that these players are talented but what have they done exceptionally that cannot be done by other players born at home?
“There are talents at home here, who are doing better than them and only need to be identified and brought to the national team to shine. For every 1,000 players that reject Nigeria, there are 2,000 in the country to replace them. The players of Nigerian descent can help the team but it shouldn’t be the federation that will be running after them to play for Nigeria.”
Onigbinde said if the right things were done, players of Nigerian descent such as Tammy Abraham, Sheyi Ojo, Dominic Solanke, among others, would beg to play for the Eagles.
He said, “Rather than running after these ready-made players born abroad, the federation should be building the talents at home. The NFF should get people whose jobs are to identify talents.
“These set of people will go round the country and get talents together from the zones and train them over a period of time. These talents can then be tested in competitions to get the best out of them for the national teams.
“The country needs a national footballing pattern to ensure a kind of uniformity in the national teams – from the age grade teams to the Eagles – and it will also ensure that those who discover these players can keep doing their work on a continuous basis. They would know the kind of players to look out for in the local leagues for the national teams.”