The downward trend in Nigeria’s football continued at the Japan/Korea 2002 World Cup.
Amodu Shuaibu and Stephen Keshi had qualified Nigeria for the World Cup, a feat that was slipping until the FA sacked Bonfrere Jo who had lost to the likes of Liberia and Sierra Lone before he was sacked. Amodu and Keshi were brought in for a rescue mission.
They qualified Nigeria for the World Cup. But afte the 2002 Nations Cup in Mali where they lost to Senegal in the semifinal they were sacked.
Again, the sports ministry was at the centre of the crisis that started in Mali when they had issues with players’ flight tickets refunds and bonuses.
The result was the disengagement of Amodu and Keshi few months to the World Cup. Chief Adegboye Onigbinde was engaged.
If t was bad that Amodu and Keshi had to go, it was worse that some players like Sunday Oliseh and Finidi George were sacrificed in the politics that engulfed the team.
About three months to the World Cup Onigbinde, in his first outing, a friendly against Paraguay in London, was introducing himself to the players and asking each player to introduce himself.
In his first training, he had asked defenders, midfielders and attackers to stay in groups, a way to identify them. He probably was doing the right thing but it was just three months to the World Cup; certainly, the wrong time for a coach to be mastering the players he was taking to the World Cup.
Nigeria was the loser. The team failed badly, losing two matches and drawing one against England who didn’t need to win to move on the to the next stage.
The Eagles in Japan/Korea World Cup were not as good as the ones who played in France ’98.
They had been reduced in strength and quality by the absence of the likes of Oliseh and Finidi George who were still in top shape at the time. The dirty politics that schemed them out of the team only punished Nigeria.
Coach : Adegboye Onigbinde