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Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
Where Nigeria went wrong
Taribo West
Taribo West has called for Onigbinde's removal
BBC Sport Online's Osasu Obayiuwana looks at the reasons behind Nigeria's first round exit at the World Cup.

After two consecutive defeats against Argentina and Sweden, Nigeria's 0-0 draw against England has restored a shred of dignity to the wounded pride of their fans.

A chequered performance at this World Cup has been an extremely bitter pill for football fans in Africa's most populous country to swallow.

Topping their preliminary groups at the 1994 and 1998 World Cup finals, Nigerian fans are accustomed to the euphoria of victory at this stage.

Julius Aghahowa being tracked by England's Nicky Butt
Aghahowa played without needed support

The agony of defeat had never been in the horizon, until now.

But the Super Eagles poor performance in Japan was not unexpected.

The decision of the country's late sports minister, Ishaya Mark Aku, to sack the coaching trio of Shaibu Amodu, Stephen Keshi and Joe Erico, after losing to Senegal in the African Nations Cup semi-finals last February, set the stage for the debacle in Japan.

Adegboye Onigbinde's appointment as Nigeria's World Cup manager, with only three months to prepare for the tournament, ensured the tournament was an accident destined to happen.

His decision to dispense with the experience of players like Finidi George, Sunday Oliseh and Victor Agali meant the Super Eagles did not go to the World Cup with its best players - an error that proved fatal.

Questionable tactics

In stark contrast to Nigeria's refreshing attacking philosophy, Onigbinde employed conservative tactics that relied on stout defending and sporadic counter-attacks.

Adegboye Onigbinde supervising a Nigerian training session
Onigbinde's tactics have been questionable

His decision to have a squad tilted in favour of defenders was clear indication that creativity in midfield and attack was going to be a problem throughout the tournament.

Julius Aghahowa, the team's lone marksman, desperately lacked needed support from the midfield.

His goal against Sweden - the only one that Nigerian scored in the tournament - was just a glimpse of what he is capable of.

What next?

With the pool of playing talent that Nigeria possesses, there is little doubt that it has the capability to be a consistent force in world football and a serious contender for the sport's ultimate prize.

But whoever is given the tough job of managing the Super Eagles to the 2006 World Cup must be given a four-year contract and the required support to rebuild the side.

Without stable and astute management on the football pitch and in the Football Association's boardroom, the Super Eagles could go into freefall, from which it could take a long time to recover.


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GROUP F
  P GD PTS
SWEDEN 3 +1 5
ENGLAND 3 +1 5
ARGENTINA 3 0 4
NIGERIA 3 -2 1

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