Former Niger Tornadoes coach, Bernard Ogbe believes that the Super Eagles underrated Madagascar in their Group B encounter at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), after losing 2-0 in Alexandria, Egypt on Sunday.
Barea’s Lalaina Nomenjanahary and Carolus Andriamahitsinoro struck in each half, in the 13th and 53rd minutes, to power their team to the second round as Group B winners ahead of the top-seeded Eagles.
Ogbe said he was surprised at the poor display by the Eagles but pointed out that the Nigerian team might have played the game with less motivation having already picked their ticket to the second round before the group game.
“Maybe they felt because we had qualified already and that we were playing against Madagascar who are a second rated team that it wasn’t important that gave their best,” Ogbe told Goal.
“They could have felt that they could easily overrun them. The Madagascan, however, are debutants and they are in Egypt not for a walk.
“They have come for a very serious tournament and they know that their qualification was still uncertain so they knew that they must get a positive result from the game with Nigeria. They came all out and were determined to surprise the Eagles. Before we could realize what hit us we had conceded two goals.
“You know that the effect a goal has in a game is very powerful. It powered the Madagascans to work harder and I saw them defending massively. It was a very tactical game and they were always waiting for very quick counterattacks after they had defended together.
“It was an issue of trying to come out of their shell [for the Eagles] after they had conceded two goals. We saw them pushing forward but it was not enough to salvage anything from the encounter.”
Ogbe believes Nigerians will forgive the Eagles despite their loss on Sunday if they are able to step up their game and ensure that they win their fourth Afcon title in Egypt.
“I believe we have learnt our lessons that there are no more minnows in football,” he added.
“I see Madagascar as the revelation in the 2019 Afcon just like Cape Verde were in 2013 Afcon in South Africa on their debut when they went all the way through to the second round.
“Our image is at stake with that loss to Madagascar and so they should make sure they go out firing on all cylinders to make sure we go far in the competition and to do that we need to beat our next opponents. The defeat to Madagascar is a very bitter pill to swallow.
“They should come all out to redeem our image because a lot of people are feeling very sad about this loss. The only way they can gladden the hearts of Nigerians is to ensure that they continue their positive progress in the tournament until they get the cup.”