By Kayode Ogundare:
Former Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Johanes Bonfrere has dropped a bombshell over the possibility of Nigeria not doing well at the 2018 World Cup following what he termed shoddy preparations and a lack of unity of purpose of the players who are currently in Russia preparing for their first game against Croatia on Saturday.
The Dutchman who was on a television programme monitored in Lagos on Tuesday night lamented the individual style of play of the players which he claimed is to the detriment of the team as a whole.
He said: “This team is very different from the 1994 squad. We have very young players in this team and they are not playing well as a unit. They prefer playing for individual glory. I’ve not seen any improvement in the way the team played their last two friendly games. You expected that the mistakes that they made against England would be corrected against Czech Republic but it was even worse. So we have to look forward to the next game maybe they will show a marked improvement although, unfortunately, that will be the World Cup game against Croatia.
“I’m not too familiar with most of the players because I’ve just seen them play a few times. What I noticed is that the players are playing too much individual football and when you have too many players doing that, it will hurt the team. If you lose the ball, you must run back to help get it away from the opponent. That’s why it is a team. In the friendly games I noticed that when they lose the ball, about two three players keep standing without trying to help the team. They stand some 25 yards away at the middle line without showing interest in what their teammates are doing to get the ball back. If you do this, then you have two or three players less than the other team in your own half.”
The 71-year old tactician also threw a subtle shade at the Gernot Rorh-led technical crew for its seeming indecision about the formation and tactics the team is going to play at the World Cup.
“Nigeria can come out of the group if the coaches agree on one formation and tell the players what is expected of each person. You can tell them ‘hey, you going to play like this and this,’ with your mouth but they have never done it before on a pitch and that’s very different from teaching them on a board or even in training.
A match situation is totally different. If you can stick to a system and let the players get the hang of it, then you have potentially one of the best team at the moment. You cannot play 4-4-2 today and 4-3-3 tomorrow and then next week 5-4-1. It’s not possible. A team going to the World Cup cannot do this,” he continued.
The man who engineered Nigeria’s gold medal win at 1996 Olympics in Atlanta also warned about the quality of the Croatian team that the Super Eagles intend to play in their opening game next Saturday at the Kaliningrad Arena.
“Croatia are a very strong and tactical team. Nigeria are trying a system which they don’t yet understand with four days to their first game at the World Cup but Croatia have a system that they stuck to even when they lost against Brazil. But Nigeria keeps changing and changing formation and tactics.
The players must know where they are playing and what they should be doing at every point in time and if they don’t know that it could be a very big problem against Croatia,” he said.
Bonfrere also said he doesn’t see the current Nigeria team finishing on the podium in Russia.
“It will be difficult for this team to win the World Cup. I already said that if you can train the Super Eagles for one month before the World Cup with two weeks of strong physical training. Then they have 80 to 100 percent physical power which you need to play at that level. Then you start tactical work and play friendly games to see how much of what you have taught them they have really imbibed. Then I can say maybe probably they can reach the semi finals and from there anything can happen,” he concluded.