‘Mikel’s new-found confidence, a plus for Eagles’

Mikel Obi’s goal for Chelsea in their 2-1 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in one of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg games played on Tuesday sparked a debate on the new-found confidence of the Super Eagles midfielder.
Mikel, who gave Chelsea a lifeline at Parc des Princes when he netted from close range after PSG failed to clear Willian’s corner in the 45th minute, in a post-match interview, took responsibility for Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal and said he owed his teammates the equalising goal.
With that goal, Mikel took his goal tally to six in 358 Chelsea appearances and justified his first-team placement since Guus Hiddink took over from Jose Mourinho at the London club two months ago.
The Guardian quoted Mikel as saying, “I had to get one for the team. The first goal was a big deflection from me, and from the foul that I committed. I had to make the foul because Lucas was going deeper and deeper towards the box and I knew I had to make a challenge, either to get the ball or foul him. Then the deflection was a big one.
“It was my foul, I got booked, and then the deflection … so it was three things. But we came back strong and I got the equaliser back, which was great.”
For many Nigerian football fans, the question is whether or not Mikel will bring his current form to the national team.
The Eagles have a double header against Egypt in the Gabon 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in March and ex-internationals, Henry Nwosu and Taribo West, believe Mikel’s new-found confidence will be a big plus to the national team.
The duo told our correspondent in separate telephone interviews on Friday that Chelsea have started reaping from the confidence Hiddink reposed in Mikel, who hitherto had been a regular benchwarmer, and said they believe the Eagles will also benefit from it.
“Definitely, Mikel’s new-found confidence should be a big plus to the Super Eagles. It is good that Mikel has now realised the way he should be playing. The ability has always been in him but probably the fear of offending the coach hindered him from exhibiting himself,” Nwosu, a former Eagles midfielder, said.
“Thank God, he has over-grown that and he is now saying, ‘I can do it for my club and I can do it for my country’. I’m glad for him that he is doing well now. I just hope that this will translate to greater contribution from him to the national team. I want to believe he will also do well for Nigeria when he comes to play for the Eagles. Since the exit of Mourinho, he has become an entirely different player. He should carry on with that spirit. I really want to see him do better for his club and for the country.”
Similarly, West, a former Eagles defender, said he believes Mikel’s resurgence will make most African teams afraid when they face Nigeria.
He said, “I think Mikel’s new-found confidence will be an advantage to the Eagles. Mikel is a name that most African teams fear because of his reputation with Chelsea and how he has been able to distinguish himself. His new-found confidence will enhance the building of the national team and make the Egyptians afraid. We can capitalise on that psychological advantage and deal with them. I pray that the boys will perform up to expectations.
“There are a lot of speculations that the leaders of the Nigeria Football Federation are not happy and many Nigerians are not happy. Nobody should expect Sunday Oliseh to perform magic as Eagles coach. He is rebuilding the team, he should be given time to do the job.”
West also praised Mikel for taking responsibility for the first goal Chelsea conceded against PSG on Tuesday and going all out to get the equaliser.
He added that he will like to see Mikel play greater leadership role in the Eagles, being one of the oldest and most experienced players in the team.
“I pray that the Eagles will be in high spirits when they face Egypt. I want them to beat Egypt home and away to make Nigerians, especially Oliseh, happy,” West said.

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