Taribo West has rejected criticism of the Super Eagles’ defence being their weakest link as Nigeria mount a challenge to qualify for the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Nigeria currently sit on top of Group B of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers following their 2-1 defeat of Zambia in Ndola on October 9 and Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Algeria in Uyo.
Despite opening up a four-point lead at the top of the table, Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr’s defence has been subjected to intense scrutiny by some football pundits and fans over the defensive errors in the last two fixtures. Turkey-based Kenneth Omeruo has been singled out for criticism.
But former Nigeria defender Taribo has disagreed with the assessment of the national team’s defence in the World Cup qualifiers.
“I’m impressed with the performance of our back four in the two qualifiers,” the former Inter Milan and AC Milan strongman told our correspondent on the telephone on Tuesday.
“I disagree with the criticism from the media and fans that our defence is not good.
“As far as I’m concerned, we have fantastic defenders – and I believe we have a strong defence.”
The Atlanta ’96 Olympic gold medallist, who represented Nigeria at the France ’98 and Korea/Japan 2002 World Cups, added, “Our defenders are good, but lack experience. With more matches, they will improve.
“Algeria would have scored at least four goals against us but they couldn’t because our defenders stopped them. A team with a bad defence couldn’t have prevented the Algerians from converting the chances they created.
“Since the Algerians couldn’t convert their chances, our defenders deserve some credit for our win.”
The well-travelled former Auxerre star rejected the suggestions that Omeruo does not deserve his place in Rohr’s starting lineup, saying the on-loan Alanyaspor player is a good defender.
The former Kaiserslautern player added, “Omeruo is a good centre-back. He was the the mainstay of our defence during the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. He was also fantastic during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
“I don’t believe he has become a bad defender. I think William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun are more determined than him. They are not better than him (Omeruo).”
Taribo praised the Eagles’ German manager for bringing a winning mentality back to the team, saying Nigeria would “demolish Cameroon” in their Russia 2018 qualifying double-header against the indomitable Lions.
Nigeria host Cameroon in the first leg qualifying clash on August 28, 2017, with the four-time African champions hosting the Eagles in the return leg fixture on September 2, 2017.
He said, “Rohr is a clever coach, and he deserves commendation for selecting his team on merit.
“He has changed the way we play and brought the German mentality. The Eagles are winning because there is a sense of collective responsibility.”
Taribo added, “The Eagles will demolish Cameroon.”