Feckless Peseiro has no answers, but must not be sacked

Feckless Peseiro has no answers, but must not be sacked

Solace Chukwu 11:56 - 18.11.2023

The Super Eagles plumbed new depths against Lesotho, and have it all to do against Zimbabwe. Peseiro, however, must be allowed to see his contract through to February, irrespective of his cluelessness.

Under no circumstances should the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), at this time, even consider sacking coach of the Super Eagles, Jose Peseiro.

In Thursday’s 1-1 draw at home against Lesotho, the Portuguese manager oversaw one of the most horrendous performances in the storied history of the Nigeria men’s national team. More ridiculous than the result itself, however, was the fact that the visitors achieved a landmark outcome without even needing to be perfect in their execution. 

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Given the scale of the achievement, one might think it was the culmination of a rearguard action to rival the efforts of the Greeks at Thermopylae. Not so: Lesotho were, in reality, quite sloppy. Committed in the extreme, dialled-in, possessed of a plan and a purpose, but sloppy nonetheless.

On a number of occasions, the Crocodiles were able to retain possession in the middle of the pitch despite looseness of touch, an unthinkable state of affairs facilitated not only by calamitous midfield dynamics, but also by the utter absence of the basic compactness one expects from football teams of the well-coached variety.

Lesotho gave up chances too. A watertight unit at the back they were not, the middling quality of those chances notwithstanding. That Taiwo Awoniyi’s stumble in the first half (itself the product of a defender deflecting the ball into the path of Victor Okoh Boniface) was the clearest opening was more an indictment of a Nigeria side reduced to extemporisation than a credit to their visitors.

This cuts to the heart of a tiresome refrain following that draw, which sought to absolve Peseiro not only on the grounds that the Super Eagles had created some opportunities,but that players of the calibre that Nigeria boasts should be able to overwhelm Lesotho irrespective of managerial input. 

Not only is this mistaken perspective inaccurate on account of the fact that a lot more goes into evaluating a coach’s work than his side creating chances, but the nature of the chances themselves was largely emergent, owing more to errors from Lesotho and the quick thinking of the players themselves. 

If anything, it is a testament to the quality of the Super Eagles corps that any openings manifested themselves at all. Peseiro certainly did little to help: what coherent construction would have Alex Iwobi, arguably the most forward-thinking midfielder available in the player pool, carrying water at the base of midfield in order for the technically limited Frank Onyeka to sortie into the half-spaces?

Alex Iwobi, Nigeria v Lesotho, 2026 World Cup qualifier
Alex Iwobi was reduced to a deep midfield role against Lesotho, limiting his effectiveness.

This flagrant misuse of resources is just one example of Peseiro’s failings. It would be easy to sympathise due to the relative paucity of options in certain departments – goalkeeper, centre-back, central/attacking midfield – if he had displayed any aptitude at all for addressing the shortfall. He has neither been keen to try new players nor willing to experiment with different tactical ideas. 

If the 63-year-old, who is ostensibly employed to fix the problem, is doing little more than bemoaning his lot along with the fanbase, what then is the use of him?

There is no greater indictment of Peseiro’s fecklessness than this: under his watch, more than ever before, people are forced to question the ability of players who are excelling in some of the highest pressure environments possible in professional football. 

This is arguably Nigeria’s most talented crop of players in the last 15 years. When Stephen Keshi won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013, he did it with far less to work with. Far less. The work of a good coach is to show even “average” players how good they are and can be; a poor one will have the public relitigating the ability of even manifestly great players.

Nigeria celebrate winning the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa
Nigeria won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations with a far less talented crop, on the whole, than they boast now.

The reader will wonder then why, despite penning 600 words flaying José Vítor dos Santos Peseiro, this writer began by insisting the former Porto and Sporting boss remain in post. If all of this, and more, is true, why then should he continue?

It is quite simple. His unsuitability for the job was evident from the first, but he did not appoint himself. Were the NFF to sack him, it would not be in the national interest. Instead, it would constitute a vain attempt to get some of the ordure off themselves; to present the Glass House as the victim, as having been let down.

In proper terms, it would accomplish next to nothing, aside from certainly tainting someone else. The Africa Cup of Nations is two months away and, with no international windows left before then, a potential replacement would have no more than three weeks to prepare. 

It is a nigh-on impossible task; the NFF tried that with Augustine Eguavoen for the last edition, and even though it looked promising initially, his freewheeling, cross-heavy 4-4-2 was ultimately proved to have been built on sand when it came up against decent, prepared opposition.

That is even before the small matter of there being no obvious standout candidate, unlike Morocco had with Walid Regragui who, with effectively 11 days preparation, took the Atlas Lions to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Qatar.

So, no. The NFF do not deserve to try to launder their own image. What they do deserve is to face the consequences of their utter failure of imagination and vision, to sit in the stocks at high noon in the town square and suck up the opprobrium of the grieving public. When the axe falls in Abidjan – and it will – let the break be a clean one, with Peseiro gone at the end of his contract in February.

It will sting, especially for fans of the Super Eagles who have, for so long, been starved of any success. However, the bill comes due; the sole prayer left is that, come the final whistle against Zimbabwe on Sunday, the NFF and Peseiro will have set Nigeria no further back in the race for the 2026 World Cup.

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