Eagles still need experienced legs, NPPF stars for World Cup qualifiers, says Ekpo
Former Super Eagles midfielder, Friday Ekpo has advised Coach Gernot Rohr to do more than selecting players playing outside the country if the Eagles were to qualify for both the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Nigeria suffered a shock 0-2 defeat to South Africa in the first match of the AFCON qualifier played at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, Akwa Ibom. And as the nation gets ready for two crucial World Cup qualifiers in August against Cameroon, Ekpo has suggested that the team needs more experienced players, as well as Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) stars to make for a solid squad.
Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Ekpo, who still expressed disappointment over the game against South Africa, said the team should have been a mixture of experienced players and few youngsters.
“We need a total overhauling of the team right from the goalkeeping area to the attack if we are to qualify for the World Cup and the Nations Cup. We need to do more with our experienced players and then bring in the youngsters who are doing well in their clubs gradually. We must use players who have been playing for the nation in the last five years or so.
“For new players to just take over the position of the old players in the team in less than two months just like that means that they must be magicians. In our match against South Africa, it was not that the goalkeeper was not good, but I faulted the coach because I did not know what kind of confidence he instilled into the players,” he said.
The former captain of the defunct Abiola Babes of Abeokuta added, “If it were the Nigerian national team players that I knew, you would see that determination and will to win written on their faces right from the dressing room. The game is considered as already won even before the ball is kicked.
“But all these were lacking in the team that I saw against South Africa in Uyo. Rohr needs to do more than just bringing in players from Europe… proper coaching is all that they need from him. He has failed to look inwards when the NPFL season is still on. The case of Germany at the Confederations Cup is still fresh. Most of the players Coach Joachim Löw used were home-based aside for three experienced players that were to lead the rest.
“All Rohr has been doing is pick players from abroad and very soon we will go and beg the players of Nigerian descent, who won the U-21 World Cup for England to come and play for us. Charity they say begins at home. I am surprised that even former internationals, who have the chance to include the NPFL players are the ones disparaging them. After all, they too started from the local league, so why are they not encouraging them also,” Ekpo stated.