Nigeria coach Sunday Oliseh must intensify his search for a creative midfielder to build a title winning team, says his former Super Eagles’ teammate Isaac Semitoje.
The Eagles have been struggling to create goal-scoring opportunities since Tunisia ’94 Africa Cup of Nations winner Austin Okocha and 1995 UEFA Champions League winner Nwankwo Kanu called it quits with the national team in 2006 and 2010 respectively.
Although the team won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, their attacking weaknesses were visible.
And Semitoje insists Stephen Keshi’s failure to address the problems after guiding Nigeria to a second round exit at the World Cup in Brazil last year led to the Eagles’ failure to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea. Keshi was eventually sent packing by the Nigeria Football Federation after the Ivory Coast Football Federation listed him as one of the coaches who applied to coach the Elephants – with the his ex-Eagles teammate Oliseh taking over his job.
Semitoje, who has voiced his dissatisfaction with the Eagles’ showing since Oliseh took over the reins, warned his co-Tunisia ’94 Africa Cup of Nations winner he is unlikely to make any kind of impact with the current squad if he fails to get a creative midfielder.
“The Eagles’ problems are glaringly obvious in the midfield. This is one problem we have not addressed since Okocha and Kanu retired from the team,” the Algiers ’90 Africa Cup of Nations silver medallist told our correspondent on the telephone from his base in Denmark on Thursday.
“Our attack is not as bad as some people think. We have good attackers. Odion Ighalo, Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike are good forwards.
“Our strikers are is not being given enough chances to score goals, because we have midfielders who are defensive-minded. Mikel Obi and Ogenyi Onazi don’t generate many scoring chances for the team.
“We need a creative midfielder like Okocha, Kanu, Moses Kpakor and Thompson Oliha (deceased).
“Oliseh also helped in creating scoring opportunities in our days in the national team. Oliseh knows what I’m talking about. He can’t succeed without a creative midfielder.
“Every good team has a creative midfielder – and Oliseh must get one if he wants to succeed. I believe he will succeed because he played the game at the highest level.”
The former Iwuanyanwu Nationale captain added, “Mikel can do the job if he is asked to play as an attacking midfielder.
“I think Mikel plays the game the same way he plays at Chelsea because he has not been given the responsibility to create goals for the national team.
“Oliseh should have a heart-to-heart with him. Mikel can become a better player if he improves his attacking aspect of the game.”
The retired Eagles defender-turned coach in Denmark called for the players to show their commitment to the national team, saying they should take games involving the team seriously.
Semitoje said, “Some our players play for their clubs as if there is no tomorrow. They should show the same commitment to the national team.”