Monday Jan 24, 2022. 12:00
Jay Jay Okocha says Tunisia out-smarted Nigeria and that there was no leadership in the 10-man Super Eagles team in Sunday’s shock last sixteen loss to The Carthage Eagles.
Nigeria’s 100 percent fairy tale run from the group stage ended in heartbreak when a very pragmatic Tunisia beat them 1-0 in Garoua to reach the quarterfinals to make up for a painful group stage run that was later compounded by a litany of pre-match positive Covid 19 cases.
Veteran striker Youssef Msakni put Tunisia ahead with an inspiring long-range goal in the 47th.
Nigeria then suffered a further setback when 59th minute substitute Alex Iwobi barely lasted seven minutes before he was sent-off after Msakni felt the force of his studs.
“We had a bad day and when it rains, it pours,” Okocha told SuperSport.
Okocha said the team just lacked the urgency on the night of a team hungry to bring home the AFCON crown.
“But the major problem we had today, if I may criticise the team, was a lack of leadership,” the Super Eagles legend said.
“At no point did I have the impression that there was one or two players that wanted to take the responsibility to talk to the other players, fire them up and get them going.
“They were all playing at the same pace and leaving each other to sort things for themselves.”
Okocha also slammed the Super Eagles’ group stage engine room Moses Simon for being too one dimensional against Tunisia.
“I think it is also important for a team or players to know when they are needed, when other players need to be helped and today I didn’t see that from our team,” Okocha said.
“I always say you are as good as your next game; you can qualify with 100 percent run but if you don’t win in your next game it counts for nothing.
“We didn’t do enough to win this match and we were taught a life lesson.
“You need to take responsibility. As a player you need to realise that plan A is not working so what can I do to influence the game?
“Should I try and keep it simple? Should I try and change and play in another position to try to create something and to try to do something to help and improve my team?
“Like Simon, today he made it easier for the Tunisians to mark him out because he was just trying to force issues.
“Sometimes if it’s not working not working, try and keep it simple, be unpredictable but today I think he was predictable.”
Okocha added that he hoped Nigeria had learnt a valuable lesson from their shock exit about just how the natural law of justice works in football.
“We set our standards so high during the group stage that we all believed that it could be our time but again like I always say, football has the final say, you have to do your business, you don’t have to rely on your opponent,” he said.
“You have to show the desire that you want it the most and if you want to be the champion you must beat every team in that competition to become the champion and today we found out that if we didn’t do our job, Monday morning after breakfast we are going home.”