What next for the Super Eagles following World Cup qualification failure?

The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations champions will not be playing in Qatar after they were knocked out by the Black Stars.

Nigeria's Super Eagles (IMAGO/Tobi Adepoju/Shengolpixs)

Tuesday, March 29 2022, will live long in the memories of football-loving Nigerian fans and the Super Eagles, but not for the right reason.

The day started with optimism, with many fans optimistic the Super Eagles would get the job done against Ghana in the second leg of their 2022 World Cup playoff encounter.

The reason for the optimism was not far-fetched. The Super Eagles had the better players, while they had also avoided defeat in the first leg at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi.

But as the game drew closer, there were fears that Nigeria would fail in their mission.

The fears eventually became a reality as the Black Stars took a shock lead in the tenth minute to silence the 60,000 fans at the Moshood Abiola Stadium.

To their credit, the Super Eagle reacted well to conceding first, drawing level a few minutes later, courtesy of William Troost-Ekong's penalty.

But Ekong's penalty turned out to be the only time Nigerians celebrated in the game as Ghana held on for a 1-1 draw.

The result meant the Black Stars qualified for the World Cup via the away goals rule, while Nigeria would have to watch from home.

It was a result that disappointed many people, and fans in the stadium expressed their anger by destroying some properties after the game.

However, while the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup is always a big one, the Super Eagles cannot dwell on it for too long.

So what next for the three-time African champions?

AFCON 2023

The good news for the players is that they do not have to wait long before setting things right, as the road to redemption starts in June when the qualifiers for AFCON 2023 begin.

The preliminary qualifying round has already been concluded, with the group stage qualifiers next.

Nigeria are among the top seeds ahead of the draw, and should be confident of getting an easy group.

It has been only over a month since the 2021 AFCON was concluded, but it is now time to turn attention to the 2023 qualifiers.

While qualifying for AFCON 2023 will not make up for the World Cup miss, it will be a good start for redemption.

Austin Eguavoen to be sacked

Eguavoen was appointed on an interim basis after Gernot Rohr was sacked one month before AFCON 2021.

But his stint has been a total failure, and that's putting it mildly. His tactical limitations were exposed at AFCON 2021.

Nigeria had impressed in the group stages but were knocked out in the first knockout round by Tunisia.

He was criticised following the team's exit but still managed to keep his job. However, with the team's failure to qualify for the World Cup, there is no way Eguavoen gets to keep his job.

He is expected to leave the Super Eagles coaching job and not return to his Technical Adviser role for the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF)-a position he held before he was appointed.

In retrospect, it was a mistake to appoint the former Super Eagles star with nothing at stake for him.

Ahmed Musa and Odion Ighalo to retire

Musa and Ighalo have been wonderful servants, but it is now time for the Super Eagles to move forward without them.

One of the reasons Nigeria failed to qualify for the World Cup is the invitation of players who have no business in the squad.

Musa is one of those players. The ex-Leicester City man was only invited not for his current form but because of his reputation.

As a result, players performing well at their clubs are often left out to pacify the 29-year-old.

Meanwhile, Ighalo had retired from international duty after AFCON 2019, only to be recalled in 2021.

But results showed that it was a wrong decision. It is now time for the Super Eagles to move ahead with these players and build with the current crop of exciting young players they have.

They may have missed out on World Cup qualification, but this is still the best set of players the Super Eagles have had in recent years.

With the right manager, this Super Eagles team will rise again and probably dominate African football.

However, all of these will not be possible without the NFF, which also needs a new direction and leader.

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