Babayaro criticises Nigeria squad
While many fans and media members alike have been extremely critical of Nigeria’s performance against Croatia, it feels like a handful of ex-players have really hit home more so than everyone else. The other day we had Jay-Jay Okocha throwing a great deal of ‘shade’ towards the squad and manager Gernot Rohr, and now, Emmanuel Babayaro has followed suit with his own words of wisdom.
For those of you who don’t know, Babayaro is a former goalkeeper for the Super Eagles from back in the 1990s, and he actually wound up winning a gold medal in 1996 as part of Nigeria’s ‘Dream Team’ at the Summer Olympics. The loss in Kaliningrad was certainly expected by a lot of pundits, although the degree to which Nigeria were unable to break the Europeans down was seen as extremely worrying. More often than not their attacking presence is seen as one of their biggest attributes, but they weren’t really able to do anything of note from the first minute until the very last. While the unpredictable nature of Group D could always render the first game pointless, there’s no denying that Iceland and Argentina both possess qualities that could lead to another disappointing performance from Rohr’s men.
In terms of the specific criticisms behind Babayaro’s remarks, he claimed that the current squad are an ‘average’ team and that many people refuse to accept that they aren’t spectacular. Babayaro went on to say that Nigerians are lying to themselves by believing that they’re a good team and that if they refuse to accept their inadequacies, then the Super Eagles won’t improve. It’s certainly a bold claim from a man who hasn’t featured for the squad in many years now, although, given his track record and proven success, it might be smart for some players to listen to what he has to say. Babayaro believes that one of the only ways in which Nigeria can qualify for the Round of 16 is through luck and God giving them the day no matter how poorly the game goes, and while that may sound outrageous to some, the World Cup can often bring up a few surprises that make you wonder if they’ve come from a force above. For years now we’ve been so used to seeing the elite teams progress to the semi-finals and the final while the underdogs never go beyond the final four, but it’s already starting to feel like the tides are turning this year in Russia. We’ve seen several high profile nations slip up, and at this stage, the door is wide open for Nigeria’s creativity to shine through if they can cease the opportunity.