Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback said he was disappointed to see his side crash out of the FIFA World Cup™ on Tuesday but remained upbeat about his players' performance. The Super Eagles drew their final match 2-2 against Korea Republic, not enough to salvage two opening losses to Argentina (1-0) and Greece (2-1).
In an entertaining clash, Nigeria scored through Kalu Uche (12) and a Yakubu Ayegbeni penalty (69), with the South Koreans responding through Lee Jung-Soo and Park Chu-Young either side of half-time.
"I have responsibility for the results," said Lagerback, who guided his home nation Sweden to the second round of the FIFA World Cup in 2002 and 2006 but has only been in charge of Nigeria for five months. "I'm the one doing the gameplan and the one training the team. Maybe with a little more time it could have been a little different.
"I felt privileged to be the coach of Nigeria. It's been a fantastic journey in many ways. As for the future, I don't know, the focus has been on the World Cup," he said, adding that there would be a full post-mortem on Nigeria's performance before any decision would be taken on whether he might stay on or not.
I felt privileged to be the coach of Nigeria.
Lagerback added: "I'm disappointed. It's very disappointing for the Nigeria team. I've been really impressed by the players' professionalism. But results speak for themselves and we didn't qualify for the second round. We started [the game against Korea Republic] really well, but we made a little mistake and it was 1-1. We played rather well and had chances to win but we didn't find that last goal."
Lagerback also said he thought his team had defended "mostly well" at the set-piece despite conceding the first goal from a corner and the second a direct free-kick. "Goals from set-pieces happen. It's about 25 to 30 percent of all goals come from that," he said, also defending the choice of the coastal city of Richards Bay as the team's training camp as opposed to a high-altitude one. Training at altitude, he argued, "has a marginal effect and we took the decision because of other advantages to staying in the Richards Bay area".
Nigeria captain Nwankwo Kanu, whose appearance against the South Koreans was his first after missing out on selection for the first two games, added: "We're not happy. One more goal and we could have qualified. But we'll take the positives. We played well but as everyone knows, if you don't score goals you don't win matches."