TRACKING >>An avalanche of criticism is only to be expected with Nigeria still battling to find their rhythm at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), team captain Mikel Obi said on Monday.
Following Sunday’s shock loss to Madagascar, the 2-0 defeat meant Nigeria was forced into second place in Group B.
They can now be up against fellow heavyweights Ghana in the next round.
Madagascar’s victory was one of the great shocks in the tournament’s history and has not gone down well with Nigerian supporters.
“Obviously, the criticism will come from the people that we love. But this is football, you are going to get criticized. We have to take the criticism and improve,” Mikel said.
“We didn’t play well and I think that in the tournament so far we haven’t really found our way to play,” he added.
“But we’ve won two games and lost one now. It’s better this happened now than in the knockout stages. Now we know as a team we have to improve, we have to do better.”
A defensive error allowed Madagascar to grab the early lead and a wicked deflection from a free kick gave them a second goal early in the second half.
But the Nigeria side had already secured qualification and were experimenting with their line-up.
“It’s normal to change the team as we were already qualified and we have 23 squad members and a lot of them deserved to play,” coach Gernot Rohr added.
“`We wanted to give some rest to some of them since we had qualified before the game. So, I think in the mind of some players, it was not so important to win.
“But (by) the beginning of the match, the gift for the first goal made Madagascar very strong. I have to say they deserved the victory, with their counter-attack football and very good defensive organization.
“We couldn’t find solutions,” the coach said.