A FORMER captain of the Super Eagles, Sunday Oliseh, has admitted that the upcoming quarter-final showdown against the Ghana Black Stars “will be difficult in many respects for the Nigerians”.
Speaking on the BBC moments after the Nigerians beat Benin 2—0 to book a place in the quarter-final round, Oliseh said: “It's going to be difficult, because Ghana were pretty impressive on Monday against Morocco. I was very impressed with Essien who seemed to cover every part of the pitch and he really showed why he is Africa's player of the moment.
“But there are two kinds of players; there are those who go out on the pitch and don't play well because they are afraid of what might happen if they lose.
“And then there is the type of player who says, ‘Finally, this is the time to show people how good I am. I hope my countrymen will think of the second option”.
Oliseh, who captained Nigeria to win the cup in 1994, was happy that the Super Eagles made it to the second round.
“I know how significant it would have been failing to qualify for the quarter-finals at the Africa Cup of Nations, especially as we didn't qualify for the World Cup two years ago.
“It was more than important. After the game, you could see the players together rejoicing and jumping around because it was such a relief for them.
“I'm not sure the victory will be a spark for Nigeria to go on and win the tournament, but I hope it will be.
“We are playing our eternal rivals, Ghana, in the next round and this game could yet ignite the team. What will certainly help is if the players could remove the pressure of history from their heads.
“They have a problem dealing with the past glories of the national team. The heights that my generation scaled are very hard to replicate. We won the Nations Cup, we reached another final and we dominated African football.
“They have to realise they have to write their own story and forget about the past.
“The national team is also lacking a real leader to push them on, the way you see Didier Drogba for Ivory Coast or Michael Essien for Ghana. Every team has to have one and luckily we saw John Obi Mikel do some of that against Benin. I just hope he can continue.
“I was younger than him when I became a leader for the national team.
“Leadership is something which people are either born with or have to learn. I think Mikel has to learn to be more imposing in the team.
“Whether this victory saved Berti Vogts, I don't know - that will be down to what happens in the Ghana game, because if we don't get a good result against the Black Stars, it will still be seen as a negative tournament.
“It would be the first time since 1982 that we didn't make it as far as the semi-finals.
“Nigeria is a very special country. We are the most populated African nation in the world with 130 million people, so it's normal that you are under pressure as the coach of the national team.
“In 1994 before we played the Nations Cup which we won in Tunisia, I was a young up-and-coming player when we played Ghana in our last friendly before the tournament.
“I played so well that people said, 'if he can play like that against Ghana, he doesn't have a problem any more. He must be a regular'. That tells you how big this game is against Ghana on Sunday.
“Much of the match is down to the coach to make it clear to the players that there is no pressure. Vogts has more psychological work to do, because it is too late to start talking about tactics now”.