—As Nigeria U-23s Face Frenchman's Congo In Olympics Qualifier
By Adeboye Amosu:
To soccer-loving Nigerians, the fear of French coach Claude Le Roy is the beginning of wisdom.The reason is not far fetched, as the vastly travelled coach has been a thorn in the flesh of Nigerian teams in the past.
And fans in the soccer-mad West African nation will hope for better luck when the country's U-23 side face their Congolese counterparts, handled by Le Roy, for a place in the African U-23 Championship billed for Senegal later in the year.
On head-to-heads, Le Roy enjoys a 3-2 lead against Nigeria and those wins have come in crucial matches, most notably in the final of 1988 African Cup of Nations in Morrocco, when the Super Eagles fell 1-0 to the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.
Completesportsnigeria.com reviews past meetings between Nigerian teams and Claude LeRoy as Samson Siasia seeks to outwit the wily old fox…
The 67- year old first came to Nigeria's consciousness in 1988, when the Super Eagles confronted their Cameroonian counterparts in the final match of the encounter.He had led the Indomitable Lions to second place finish two years earlier in Egypt.
That game marked the beginning of what has today become one of the most intriguing rivalries in African football and dominance of LeRoy over Nigeria.
Henry Nwosu, the man whose impressive first-half header was controversially chalked off, believes the Leroy jinx is real and warned his former international teammate, Samson Siasia, who is in charge of Nigeria's U-23 side, to psyche his players for a tough battle against Congo.
''I must confess that Claude Le Roy has a magic mojo against our team," Nwosu confessed to Completesportsnigeria.com. "It started from that game against Cameroun in Morrocco and even though we have managed to beat his team on a number of occasions, he has prevailed in key games.
''The players are aware of this fact too, but it is the job of the coaches to try and prepare them mentally for the task ahead.
''Thank God we have a coach who played football to the highest level and knows how to prepare for key games like the one we have ahead of us."
Nwosu's view was corroborated by Peter Rufai, the man who was in goal in that game against the Cameroonians.
''I believe there is something about that man, Claude Le Roy, that is not known to us up until this moment. He seems to have a magic wand when he confronts us [Nigeria]," Rufai told completesportsnigeria.com.
''He is a wonderful character and he transformed that psychological edge he has over us to any team he is handling."
There was no doubt Nigerian fans enjoyed that sweet victory against their old nemesis at Senegal '92, particularly as it came against the hosts but the erstwhile director of football for French outfit Paris Saint Germain, waited for another crucial moment to inflict another pain on Nigeria.
This time, it was in the quarter-final of 2008 AFCON finals in Ghana. Le Roy's inspired 10-man Black Stars side, sent the Eagles out of the competition, with the former triumphing 2-1.
It was a disappointing end for the Super Eagles side that was handled by respected German Berti Vogts and paraded talented players like Nwankwo Kanu, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Obafemi Martins, Ikechukwu Uche and a host of other top players.
That disappointment was best summed up by Augustine Eguavoen who was Nigeria's assistant coach at the competition.
''I was part of the team that beat Senegal in 1992 and I was so sure the team would beat our major rival, Ghana, and score another victory against Le Roy but he was able outwit us again even with a man down.
''He was definitely not happy with what happened the last time we met and it showed in the way he motivated his side to go for victory."
If losing against 10 men was termed disappointing, what followed six years later can be described as disastrous. A Super Eagles side still basking in the euphoria of their 2013 AFCON win and an impressive showing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, were surprisingly beaten 3-2 at home.The man behind the shocking was no other than Claude Le Roy.
Though the Super Eagles later avenged that loss with a 2-0 win against the Congolese in Pointe Noire, it was their opponents who sailed through to Equatorial Guinea 2014 at the end of the qualifiers.
For Siasia, the encounter between his team and Congo will be the first time he will be facing the former AC Milan of Italy football adviser as a coach, after he inspired the Super Eagles to a 2-1 win against a Senegal side tutored by Le Roy at the 1992 AFCON finals and he seems ready for the challenge.
”This is a new school coach coming up against an old school coach, so we’re learning new tactics to see how to better them.
” We respect him, but its going to be 11 against 11 and I think it’ll come down to creating chances and taking, them [the players]."