Former Super Eagles’ Chief Coach Adegboye Onigbinde says Nigeria could have performed better at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in South Korea and Japan if some players had behaved positively.
Onigbinde told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Awka the Super Eagles would have moved beyond the first round if he had not featured in the team certain players.
“We would have done better if I had not featured in the team some players who had no positive mindset,” he said.
Onigbinde explained that Nigeria would not have lost their first two matches if he had started the games with the relatively-unknown Vincent Onyeama then.
NAN reports that the Super Eagles lost to Argentina (0-1) and Sweden (1-2) in the opening and second games respectively, thus preparing the ground for a first round exit.
This was in spite of a 0-0 draw in their final match of the first round.
“My major undoing was my magnanimity of accepting into my team some members of the Super Eagles team which was disbanded after the 2002 African Nations Cup (AFCON) final in Mali earlier in the year,” the former FIFA and CAF Technical Instructor said.
Onigbinde who was in Awka as a resource person for Berackiah Football Coaching Clinic blamed the losses in those two matches on sabotage and warned coaches against sentiment when on national or club assignments.
“In January and February of 2002, we were at the African Cup of Nations in Mali, where the team collapsed. It was disbanded and I was hurriedly called in to come and handle the team to the World Cup.
“By FIFA’s schedule, a coach has one year to prepare a team for the World Cup. But in my case I had three months.
“I was brought in in March and the competition (the World Cup) was in June. Within that period of three months we played seven friendly matches, won five and drew two.
“However, I was warned that none of the members of the disbanded team should be called to camp and any one who came was there to engage in sabotage.
“But when the team started coming up, the old members started making appeals and promises to come and perform, and my regret in that exercise was the mistake of taking them back,” Onigbinde said.
He pointed out that the performance of some members of the team was lamentable.
“During the match against Argentina, a key defender in my team opened his mouth and watched as Gabriel Batistuta headed the ball into the net. It was the same defender that gave Sweden their goal.
“This was why in the game match against England, I brought in Vincent Enyeama, Femi Opabunmi and a few others and we got a goalless draw.
“So, if I had used that team against Argentina we probably would have got a draw and I am sure we would have reached the finals of that competition. But all that is history now,” the coach said.
He however noted that Nigeria is among the most blessed countries in the world with human resources in football, calling for regular training and respect for indigenous coaches.