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Peseiro must stop the Nigeria rut and make a strong Emmanuel Dennis decision

21:00 GMT+4 18/11/2022
Jose Peseiro, Emmanuel Dennis Nigeria
The Super Eagles’ loss against World Cup-bound Portugal continued a wretched run of results for the three-time African champions

Nigeria were unlikely to pull up trees against Portugal but a 4-0 thrashing against the World Cup-bound European nation was not foreseen.

The humiliation saw the Super Eagles fail to compete for the duration of the game which showed the gulf in class between both nations and highlighted the tactical limitations of Jose Peseiro’s crew.

The first half saw the West African nation start well but they lost their stranglehold on proceedings after a commendable opening five minutes, thereafter failing to create anything of note as Fernando Santos’ team pinned them back.

Two Bruno Fernandes goals in the opening half was no less than the Selecao deserved in their final tune-up match at Estadio Jose Alvalade before next week’s World Cup opener with Ghana.

It allowed Santos the opportunity to give game time to other members of his squad and manage the rest of the game.

That approach could have been turned on its head had Samuel Chukwueze got the better of Rui Patricio after fine work down the right flank or had Emmanuel Dennis dispatched his penalty with 10 minutes to play.

The Nottingham Forest man flouted instructions and was hell-bent on scoring at the Jose Alvalade, seemingly resisting William Troost-Ekong and Paul Onuachu’s attempts to take the ball off him. Peseiro’s demeanour on the touchline suggested that Dennis was not the designated penalty taker.

Quite simply, such an act of individualism can be overlooked if you put the ball in the back of the net. Anything else, and you risk looking silly for breaking away from the team’s plan.

Dennis could not convert from 12 yards.

The egocentrism displayed by the forward provoked the ire of Super Eagles fans on social media who have never truly warmed to the former Watford attacker. There was a feeling former Nigeria trainer Gernot Rohr overlooked the 25-year-old owing to attitudinal drawbacks and the fiasco preceding the Africa Cup of Nations should have probably put paid to the striker’s time in the national team.

However, invites have still been extended to the ex-Club Brugge frontman since the turn of the year. Thursday’s incident was not an isolated episode and Nigeria’s new trainer must show strength by keeping the Forest away from the squad going forward.

Portugal turned the screw after Patricio thwarted Dennis from 12 yards to score twice in two minutes to seal a fairly comfortable win over the West African nation. One defeat in isolation could be overlooked but the absence of momentum in results since the turn of the year is now alarming.

Wins have been a rarity since Moses Simon inspired Augustine Eguavoen’s troops to three wins on the trot in the group stage of the Africa Cup of Nations, with their Round of 16 elimination by Tunisia starting a run of two wins in their last nine fixtures.

Five of those games have been losses and Peseiro has been in situ for four.

Those games have been friendlies, the perfect defence for the journeyman manager whose performance will not be judged in those matches but in qualifying for the major competitions and, ultimately, in those tournaments.

Apart from a shaky start in the opening half against Sierra Leone, Peseiro’s Nigeria have been dominant in Afcon qualifying, claiming a 2-1 win over the Lone Stars and a record-setting 10-0 success over Sao Tome and Principe.

Going Chicken Little is premature but how Peseiro handles a potentially poisonous Dennis situation and turns around the Super Eagles’ disappointing run of results could make or mar his Nigeria tenure.