Nigeria coach blames Mfon Sunday Udoh for WAFU Cup of Nations defeat by Togo
THIES, Senegal -- Mfon Sunday Udoh must have thought Halloween had come a month early, given his nightmare performance in Nigeria's opening 2019 WAFU Cup of Nations match on Sunday.
Nigeria lost 2-1 to Togo -- their second defeat by the Sparrowhawks in seven days, after their 4-1 reverse in a CAF African Nations Championship qualifier -- and the Akwa United FC striker was largely to blame.
Udoh may not have started the match but that certainly didn't mean his impact wasn't felt, at least by the millions of Super Eagles fans around the world.
The 27-year-old was introduced in the 63rd minute and in only half an hour on the pitch ruined Nigeria's hopes of winning the main Cup competition at the WAFU Cup of Nations.
Trailing by a goal, Nigeria coach Imama Amapakabo thought it the opportune time to introduce Udoh. However, the striker squandered three glorious scoring chances -- two real sitters -- and received two yellow cards, which saw him sent off in the dying minutes of the match.
The question, though, is not whether it was the player's inability to score that cost the team, but whether the pressure put on him by Amapakabo resulted in an overly aggressive performance and a disastrous showing.
Amapakabo told ESPN after the match that he had told Udoh prior to the encounter that the striker was expected to win the game for the Super Eagles.
"I told Udoh before the game that he was going to win it for us, so it was a deliberate tactical change to bring him on," Amapakabo said.
"My job as a coach is to make a team that will create chances, but it still rests on the player to convert that chance with the tactical approach of the team.
"He [Udoh] had two chances he should have buried; unfortunately he did not. He is one of the highest goal scorers in the league in Nigeria, but he had a bad day."
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Udoh probably should have scored, and the pressure on him mounted each time he squandered possession before he lashed out uncharacteristically in the 92nd minute to receive a second yellow card and his marching orders.
"We decided to bring the under-23 team that is preparing for the Olympics to this tournament," Amapakabo told ESPN.
"And we decided to bring a young team because we believe they have the capacity to succeed. Our main objective is to set-up a team that is going to win in the future.
"We made technical mistakes in the first half, but in the second half we had a far better showing. We came out and created chances. It is my responsibility as a coach to make a team that creates chances through our tactics, but it is the responsibility of the players to convert."
Nigeria next play the loser of the match between Ivory Coast and Cape Verde in a WAFU Cup of Nations Plate quarterfinal on Oct. 5.