Finishing the year in 66th position, the worst in recent times on the monthly FIFA rankings and outside the top ten teams in Africa is a pointer that the Nigeria Super Eagles are far from their former very best.
For a country that has once be ranked as high as the 5th best football playing country in the world, slipping into the present state suggests that more work still needs to be done to make the Eagles super again.
The year 2015 started on a sour note as Nigeria was conspicuously missing in the curtain raiser for the year; the Africa Cup of Nations could and fans were condemned to only watch on TV as the Eagles failed to qualify for the biennial football showpiece.
The absence of the then defending champions paved way for the Elephants of Cote’ D Ivorie who defeated Ghana 9-8 on penalty shootout to lift the trophy for the second time on February 8.
Having failed to qualify for AFCON, erstwhile manager Stephen Keshi was understandably kicked out and the first set of friendly then said to be targeted at rebuilding the Eagles was handled by Coach Daniel Amokachi.
The short stint enjoyed by ‘The Bull’ did not serve anything to cheer as the Eagles lost by a lone goal first to the Elephants of Cote’ D Ivorie and then shockingly to the Cranes of Uganda on home turf at the Akwa Ibom Satdium, Uyo.
Though there was a face-saving 1-1 draw recorded away in South Africa, minds were already made up that Amokachi was not the messiah needed by Nigeria football.
After a lot of power play and intense lobbying, the ‘Big Boss’ Keshi was back in the saddle but not for too long as he saw his contract terminated despite starting the AFCON qualifiers with a 2-0 win over Chad in Kaduna.
End of Keshi
Keshi was nailed by the NFF for supposedly applying for the then vacant job Elephants of Cote’ D Ivorie, a move they said bellies his loyalty to the Nigeria job.
In what looked like a already predetermined manner, the NFF was quick to name another ex-international cum former Super Eagles captain Sunday Oliseh to take over the reins of leadership.
Expectations were high to put it mildly but recording a barren draw in his first official game away to Tanzania in the AFCON qualifying series saw many having a rethink.
A morale boosting 2-0 win was to be recorded days after over Niger in a friendly played in Port Harcourt which at least calmed frail nerves already labelling Oliseh as a wrong choice for the Eagles chiefly because he has no experience on the job.
No Oliseh magic
The fears of many on Oliseh especially as it concerns his man management skills came to fore during the preparations for the next set of games for the Eagles in Belgium.
Skipper of the team Vincent Enyeama who was unavailable for the first set of games under Oliseh due to the death of his mother and after the burial of his deceased parent had an altercation with his coach,allegedly questioning the rationale behind Oliseh stripping him and sticking with Ahmed Musa as Eagles’ captain despite his return and that of more senior players like Mikel Obi in the squad.
The spat escalated quickly and dominated discussions for days, eventually leading to Enyeama’s premature retirement from the Super Eagles.
With Nigerians still coming to terms with Enyeama’s retirement from international football via Instagram, Fenerbache loanee, Emmanuel Emenike, also quit; citing unfavourable conditions in the new-look Super Eagles set up.
Back to the pitch Oliseh tasted defeat for the first time on the job as Eagles Coach as his team were beaten 2-0 by Dr Congo.
However, the Eagles bounced back nicely; taming the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in a 3-0 win.
From then, attention was shifted to the Home-based Eagles who were seeking qualification for the 2016 CHAN tournament to be staged in Rwanda.
The team earned qualification beating their West African neighbours 2-0 over two legs.
Nigeria ended the year with the progress made in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers but that in itself is laced with mixed feelings.
Playing against a ‘tiny’ country like Swaziland which were like 100 places below Nigeria as at the time they were to play each other, the expectation was for a crushing victory for the Eagles.
That however was not the case as the Eagles barley escaped defeat in the first leg away from home before struggling to a 2-0 win at home days later.
In all, it has not been a bad year for the national team, but has earlier stated the Nigeria team have been all but Super but gradually getting back to their strides.
With crucial qualifying games dominating 2016 as well as the CHAN tournament on the cards, many hope the Eagles will make good use of their wings to soar and not crawl in the fast approaching New Year.
Results for 2015
Sun 11/01/15 FRI Nigeria 0 – 1 Côte d’Ivoire
Wed 25/03/15 FRI Nigeria 0 – 1 Uganda
Sun 29/03/15 FRI South Africa 1 – 1 Nigeria
Sat 13/06/15 ACO Nigeria 2 – 0 Chad
Sat 05/09/15 ACO Tanzania 0 – 0 Nigeria
Tue 08/09/15 FRI Nigeria 2 – 0 Niger
Thu 08/10/15 FRI Nigeria 0 – 2 Congo DR
Sun 11/10/15 FRI Nigeria 3 – 0 Cameroon
Sat 17/10/15 ANC Nigeria 2 – 0 Burkina Faso
Sun 25/10/15 ANC Burkina Faso 0 – 0 Nigeria
Fri 13/11/15 WQA Swaziland 0 – 0 Nigeria
Tue 17/11/15 WQA Nigeria 2 – 0 Swaziland