As the World Cup hots up in Brazil, and with Nigeria playing France in one of the round of 16 games, SL10.ng caught up with former Nigeria striker and immediate past Super Eagles coach, Samson Yebowei Siasia.
The former Nantes of France striker speaks exclusively to sl10.ng on the World Cup, Nigeria’s chances, and his experience at the USA ’94 world cup. Enjoy.
SL10.NG: The Super Eagles will play France in the round of 16, do you have any expectations?
SIASIA: Of course yes, as a Nigerian I should have expectations. It has been a while – the first time in 16 years, the team qualifies so you must have expectations especially looking at how they played in their last two group games. Nigeria are unfancied at this stage but they have shown tremendous improvements, they showed great composure against Argentina and I think that will give them more confidence against France.
And talking about that game against Argentina, what’s your impression? Nigeria once again failed to beat Argentina at a world cup…
SIASIA: It was a good game, and I thought Nigeria played well given the circumstances. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with the team, especially with Ahmed Musa. Having worked with Musa, I must say that was the best game I’ve seen him play. I was surprised with his composure and I’m sure he was surprised with his performance too. Unfortunately, the Super Eagles lost but the most important thing was to qualify for the round of 16, which they did so I don’t think it was much of a problem.
Only Nigeria and Algeria are left of the African teams, what’s your impression?
SIASIA: Well, it’s quite sad that more African teams didn’t go through. I think African football still need a lot of improvements. Their overall play hasn’t been bad but there’s still a lot to be corrected in their play. For instance, I’ve seen that African team teams still lack that composure in their own penalty area, and as a result give away unnecessary fouls and penalties. If these issues can be worked upon and corrected, I firmly believe African teams will get better. African teams could probably get to the semi-finals at the next World Cup, if these complacencies are sorted. Take a look at the Ghana team for instance, they had a very good side, and had a very good chance of progressing but little mistakes against the United States and Germany, and even against Portugal didn’t help their cause. Besides the other issues bedevilling African teams off the pitch, this little on-the-pitch indiscretions also make things difficult.
What do you think of the World Cup now and when you played in ’94?
SIASIA: Ah, lots of difference I must tell you. You can’t even compare. It’s the same World Cup, I mean, people still go out to support their countries and favorite players, but back then, it wasn’t as lucrative as it is now. There’s a lot of marketing that goes into making the World Cup happen now, so many side attractions that make fans want to witness the World Cup. I’d say there was a bit more passion in the way the teams played back then. But it was a good experience, playing at the world cup for the first time, being amongst the best players and best football playing nations in the world. There’s that special feeling you get playing at the World Cup.
Let’s analyze Nigeria’s outing at the 2014 World Cup. How would you describe it?
SIASIA: Well, it has been good in my opinion. Maybe not fantastic, but having qualified for the round of 16 for the first time in 16 years should count for something at least. The Super Eagles keeps improving, and it reminds you of how they won the African Cup of Nations in South Africa last year. They didn’t start well in the tournament, but grew into it as it progressed, so I think it has been a similar start to this World Cup too. With the way they have come thus far, I have a feeling they will keep improving as the World Cup progresses. That means I see them progressing beyond the second round (laughs).
And talking about progression, the French won’t be an easy nut to crack. Have the Super Eagles got enough to crack the French who by the way, have been quite impressive in Brazil?
SIASIA: (Laughs)… Yes it won’t be an easy game against France, definitely. But like I said, the Super Eagles have shown tremendous improvements and in as much as it won’t be an easy game for Nigeria, it also won’t be an easy game for France and I’m sure they know that. Both teams started the competition in different ways, with different results and with France having finished top of their group, they have to be respected. But I know the Eagles would rather be playing France, than a South American team because I’m sure that somehow, it will be easier to cope against a European team like France. France will not sit back, they will look to attack and that is where I think Nigeria will find spaces, with players like Musa, Osaze and Emenike all having power and pace to burn. The French have got a stronger midfield though, with the likes of Cabaye, Matuidi, and Pogba. Like I said, it will be a tough game for both sides but after everything, I see Nigeria winning.