By Amaechi Agbo
Former Super Eagles captain, Austine Okocha has blamed Nigeria’s Russia 2018 World Cup group stage elimination in the hands of Argentina on inexperience.
Popularly called Jay Jay, Okocha reconed that Nigeria could have profited with the youthful age of the players, many of which made their World Cup debut in the tournament but added the Nigeria paid the cost price of inexprenice which played out when the team lost 2-1 to Argentina on Tuesday.
The loss made it three times the three-time African champions failed to make it out of the group stages of the quadrennial event. Nigeria suffered the same fate in 2002 and 2010 when they could not progress from the group stage, a story Okocha could not forget.
Okocha said “Uzoho kept us in the game with the saves he made in the second half. We panicked in the first half. We were not clear to keep more players in attack. We were limited in terms of experience.
“the penalty was a gift from Mascherano but then I thought we started the second half better. We got ourselves in better places. It was a fantastic penalty from Moses but I think we should have put them under more pressure.”
Speaking on the controversial penalty referee Cuneyt Cakir failed to award Super Eagles, the former Paris Saint-Germain playmaker said the Nigerian team did not put more pressure on the referee adding that Nigeria would have sealed qualification had Eagles striker, Odion Ighalo utilized the two chances thast came his way.
Marcos Rojo handled the ball in the box involuntarily and the referee, after viewing the incident on VAR ruled it out.
“Nobody appealed under the referee. We know what the Argentines are like. Rojo got away with one.”
“They were glorious chances, the ball sat down well for him. If I was Ighalo, I would try to force a save from the goalkeeper. If you don’t hit the target you don’t get your job done.”
The former Bolton Wanderers player who retired from international football aged 32 attributed the late goal conceded by the team to poor defending.
“We’ve seen so many late goals in this tournament. That goal should have been averted. It was purely poor defending. Moses reacted late. I have seen him deal with that at Chelsea. I can’t fault the effort of the players; they gave their best.
“It was going to be tough for us and it lived up to that and it went to the last three minutes, but I think we have to look at the bigger picture. Most of these players participated in World Cup for the first time.
“For the manager he did well. It’s about continuity. We don’t have to point fingers at anyone,” the 1996 Olympics male football gold gold medalist said. .
Nigeria were dumped out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia after they lost 2-1 to Argentina at Saint Petersburg, Russia despite Croatia beaten Iceland 2-1. Argentina will take on France in the Round 16 while Croatia will tackle Denmark.
Nigeria finished third in Group D with three points, one adrift of Argentina who occupied second place with 4 points. Croatia had 100% record with three wins out of three matches at the group levels.
Nigeria lost her opening match 2-0 against Croatia but defeated Iceland with the same shoreline and needed only a draw against Argentina to scale through to the knockout stages.
With the World Cup ouster, Super Eagles next competitive match will be 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Seychelles on September 7, 2018. Nigeria lost the first qualifier 2-0 to South Africa on June 10 last year.
Nigeria is drawn in Group E along, Libya, Seychelles and South Africa who tops the group.