Sunday, February 7, 2010

Nigeria Looking for a Hired Gun

I don't know why this fascinates me so. The second-tier World Cup teams who figure they won't go anywhere at the World Cup ... unless they hire some (usually) big-name foreigner to come in and run their team.

Nigeria has done this in the past. And Nigeria is doing it again.

On Saturday, Nigeria fired its home-grown coach, Shaibu Amodu, with the 2010 World Cup barely four months away.

Amodu's crime? Well, there are two of them.

His team lost 3-1 to Egypt in the Cup of African Nations, and then lost 1-0 to Ghana in the semifinals. That's crime No. 1.

Crime No.2: He's Nigerian. Nigeria doesn't think it's going anywhere at the World Cup unless a foreigner is in charge. Say, like in 1998, when Bora Milutinovic got them into the knockout phase of the World Cup in France.

The usual names are coming up: Guus Hiddink first and foremost. Even though Guus says he will serve out the remainder of his contract with Russia.

(It strikes me that some of the top hired-gun coaches seem to come from two regions: Holland and Serbia/Croatia. Bora is a Serb. So is Ratomir Dujkovic, former Ghana coach, listed as a candidate for the Nigeria job.)

Actually, Nigeria could be a pretty good gig. There is some talent there (Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Obafemi Martins, Mikel John Obi, Dickson Etuhu, Joseph Yobo). A little jaded, perhaps, and individual-oriented. But it isn't like trying to win with New Zealand's guys.

So, drop in, make $500,000 or whatever for four months, with all sorts of incentives for doing anything good in South Africa ... with the chance that your guys catch fire and get deep into the playoffs and pop you up to Guus Hiddink status -- where your name comes up for every lucrative job opening in the world.

Also, this may be the only job opening before the 2010 World Cup. North Korea was thought to be looking for a coach, but it now seems as if the craziest country in Fifa will stick with their local guy. Which is probably just as well, considering North Korea has no money.

Nigeria is in a difficult but not impossible group: Argentina, Greece, South Korea. All three of those matches are in play, considering Diego Maradona coaches Argentina. Somebody may about to be famous.
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