SUPER Eagles skipper Mikel Obi has revealed that the team lost to Madagascar in their third Group B game in the ongoing African Cup of Nations yesterday because they are yet to find their rhythm and play as a cohesive unit.
Last night, the Eagles suffered a shock 0-2 defeat at the hands of tournament debutants Madagascar in the Alexandria Stadium. Goals from Lalaina Nomenjanahary and Carolus Andriamahitsinoro condemned Nigeria to her first defeat in the tournament and made the Eagles lose out on the group’s top spot.
After narrow 1-0 victories over Burundi and Guinea in their first two games, the Eagles only needed a draw with Madagascar yesterday to clinch top place in the group but they were comprehensively beaten. Head coach Gernot Rohr made several changes to the team, bringing in goalkeeper Ike Ezenwa, Leon Balogun, Mikel and Samuel Kalu and thus appears to weaken the team.
Speaking after the match, Mikel blamed himself and his teammates for the team’s not-too-good performance. Yesterday’s loss weakened the faith of Nigerian football fans in the team judging from the way the Eagles played when Nigeria won the competition in 1980, 1994 and 2013, without losing a match.
Mikel, who returned to the starting line-up failed to impress and had to make way for Alex Iwobi just before the hour mark. At the outset, Nigeria dominated possession but were punished in the 13th minute when trying to play out from the back as John Ogu under-hit a square ball to Leon Balogun on the edge of their own box but the Brighton defender hesitated, allowing Nomenjanahary to nip in and round the goalkeeper before slipping the ball into an empty net.
In the 53rd minute, Madagascar doubled their lead as Andriamatsinoro’s 25-yard free-kick deflected in off half-time Nigeria substitute Wilfred Ndidi. Despite attempts to get back into the game, the Eagles never really troubled Madagascar as their high press did not allow the team to settle on the ball, allowing the Indian Ocean islanders to create history with this shock upset.
Mikel said: ” We have not really played well but we’ve won two games and lost this one now. In a way it’s better that it happened now than happening in the knockout stages, so now we know together as a team we have to improve, we have to do better, we have to find a way to play better and win games.
”It is going to be tough for us, we have to pick ourselves up, we have to keep our heads up and go again. If you don’t get criticised you are not in the game, we have to take the criticism and improve.”