By James Ojo
The Super Eagles of Nigeria restored hopes of qualification for the 2019 African Cup of Nations on Saturday by defeating Seychelles 3-0. Below are few things we noted from the game.
1. Eagles learning to win rough
At the end of the Super Eagles game against Seychelles on Saturday, there were more concerns among many Nigerian fans over their team’s overall performance than the result.
“Thank God for the victory anyway, but I think we still have to work very hard most especially anytime we are meeting a team of that level,” John Obuh, former Nigeria U-20 Coach told Goal.Com in an exclusive interview.
“I expect we should use that situation to make sure that we keep the coordination of the ball very well, the position of the ball very well and pass the ball very well.
“When we’re attacking we know we’re attacking, we’re defending we know we are defending. We had a lot of situation for counter-attack which we didn’t use well.
“I think the most important thing anyway is we’ve won the game but then we must try to make sure that when we are playing that kind of level we should use it to improve on our team,” he added in the interview.
Such concerns were apt, given that the three-time African Champions played far below expectations.
From a disjointed defense line to a seemingly clueless midfield and an attack guilty of letting precious opportunities go begging, this was obviously not what many Nigerians expected. Following their world cup woes, especially the loss to South Africa, many anticipated a convincing performance from the Super Eagles, especially a team ranked 188th in the world.
Regardless, Nigerians would draw strength from their team’s ability to win against the odds. Playing against a relatively ‘small team’ at times, could be a moment to stamp one’s superiority, class and availability of talents but even the best teams often struggle against such situation. The difference, more than often, has always been the ability to grind out results from such encounters. And that was exactly what the Super Eagles did.
Gernet Rohr’s men have come under the storm after a shambolic World Cup display in Russia and humiliating defeat to South Africa, largely due to their inability to win rough. However, his team’s victory on saturday clearly indicates that the Super Eagles could rack up points in subsequent outings, with such mindset.
2. No Victor Moses, No problem
Saturday’s game clearly sent out a message: Not many will miss Victor Moses in the Nigerian team, in a magnitude earlier expected. Much of the match preview was dominated by the Moses’s shocking retirement from national football, sparking concerns over the damage his void could cause the team. But his exit only paved way for other players to take the stage and even on their debut game in a Nigerian shirt, they were already blazing the trail. One of such players was Samuel Kalu who left many awed with his pace, dribbling skills and eye for goal. With Rohr currently trying the introduction of new talents into the fold, it is obvious Victor Moses would not be missed as once feared by many.
3. Time running out for Rohr
If there is anything that should ring bell to Rohr at the moment, it is how he can possibly scheme out things to ensure consistency of results. While the gaffer has enjoyed a good start to life, qualifying Nigeria for Russia and reawakening seemingly hitherto waned trust of Nigerians in the Super Eagles, there is no doubt that more is expected from him. The decision of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) to stick to him after World Cup exit, unarguably was to afford him ample time to build the team to his taste. Tactically, the coach’s ability to rotate between 3-5-2 and 4-3-3 formations as seen in Russia and against Seychelles is commendable but getting the best out of this system for his team, has so far, been somewhat impossible for the manager.
Providing competition for the team should also be an essential concern for the coach. With players such as Ogenyi Onazi, Odion Ighalo among others not living up to expectations, injecting fresh legs into the team is crucial.