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NIGERIA'S coach, Stephen Keshi, hopes there will be an inspiring inscription on his scorecard by the time the Super Eagles conclude a crucial 2014 World Cup qualifier against the Brave Warriors of Namibia tomorrow in Calabar.
As a player, Keshi was reputed for his winning attitude, commanding influence, imposing presence and tremendous leadership talent.
He is expected to reproduce these outstanding qualities in his team but time and reality of today's football do not make that desirable demand realisable.
The other time, Keshi was quoted to have said he was not bothered by the low rating of Nigeria by world football body, FIFA.
Statistics tells half the story in football.
Keshi, then as a captain, marshalled the Super Eagles which rated ninth best in the world at the end of USA' 94 World Cup.
Why or how he is not bothered that as a coach, his country now stands at 63rd in the world is in itself bothersome.
Perhaps, his men in the technical committee should remind or enlighten him that FIFA rating is not a brain teaser or a jigsaw puzzle.
It is a reality, a challenge for countries ascending the ladder to keep up the pace and a wake-up call for those slipping down the rung.
FIFA has the legitimate right to encourage or expose its member nations by ranking them monthly.
FIFA's grants to member nations are huge and are not meant to swell federation officials' bank deposits but to develop football in the best possible way.
Many people are curious how FIFA rankings apply.
An ambitious country, which lost to Spain 8-2, Brazil 4-0, Germany 3-0 and Argentina 5-1 in international friendlies earns more points than a complacent one which overcomes Fiji Islands, Sao Tome and Principe, Samoa Islands on FIFA ranking.
In essence, the monthly ranking is meant to create awareness and more importantly to remind countries and federations that they have to know the right direction to take to boost their image in the society of football.
Keshi's Eagles have played six friendly games and one competitive game winning two, drawing three and losing two.
It was goalless against a defensive Botswana but the Eagles rallied forces to beat 2012 Nations Cup-bound and eventual African champions, Zambia 2-0. The Eagles also held another 2012 Nations Cup candidate, Angola goalless in Abuja but again rose and shone by beating Liberia 2-0 in Monrovia.
In his only competitive game, Keshi and his lads played out a goalless draw against home country, Rwanda.
Then flying low pitch, losing to Egypt 2-3 and Peru 1-0.
There and then, Keshi felt he had to kick his players hard, telling them that as a player, he had never experienced back-to-back defeats.
Whatever has happened to the Super Eagles of Nigeria this year has not really gone down well with gurus at FIFA as the country plummets monthly on world ranking.
Nigeria was 45th in January, 56th in February, 57th in March, 60th in April and 63rd in May rankings. Food for thought.
Tomorrow, Keshi is looking to win his first international game since he came on board.
Do Nigerians expect a convincing win and a good performance? Yes, and rightly so.
In some cases, performance and result combine to become a necessity. In Nigeria, a coach that wins ugly curries no sympathy from the fans. Ask Phillippe Troussier. He led the Eagles to win the France '98 World Cup slot even with a match oustanding. He got booted for a reward because the Eagles struggled under him.
Shuaibu Amodu sucessfully took Nigeria through qualification games for the South-Korea-Japan 2002 and South Africa 2010 World Cup finals but was stopped from flying with the Eagles for the two editions of the Coupe de Monde.
This is a land of great footballers and the crowd stand to get entertained as they savour the joy of victory.
At present, the debate ongoing in the Super Eagles' circle favours the encouragement and integration of the players in the Nigeria Premier League in the national team.
The choice is Keshi's having observed very closely, the home-based players in friendly and competitive match-situations. However, the fact remains that there are a number of equally- ambitious Nigerians abroad who deserves to be given the chance in the Eagles so long they are willing to identify with the expectation of Nigerians.
The fact also is that the Eagles as they are now are underdone and anywhere Keshi gets his best legs is his business.
It is too early to judge the Eagles under Keshi, who got the job last November but it will do the team a whole lot of good if the team begins to perform and win to enhance its confidence and allays unnecessary tension. It is assumed Keshi must have learned a bit about fine-tuning in the preparatory games, and find an ally in victory.
Against Namibia, Keshi and his Eagles must hit the ground running or else the jury or worse still, the knives could be out.Share
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