FEATURE ARTICLE

Cyril C. NwokejiThursday, October 17, 2013
cyril.nwokeji@wol.be
Belgium

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SUPER EAGLES OF NIGERIA:
A VERY CLOSE SHEAVE IN ADDIS ABABA; BUT FORTUTIOUSLY A VICTORIOUS SWAN SONG

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t was a match to be remembered for a long time, to come. What a match! It potentially had all the trappings of a very interesting confrontation, between a "David", and a "Goliath". In this case however, the Goliath. was virtually asleep for all of 65 minutes; this was in shrill contrast to the biblical "Goliath", who at the very least, put up a brave fight against "David", before going down. Our dear Super Eagles, were simply not in the game for 65minutes, but nevertheless eeked out a win in this very crucial first leg of the two-legged decider betweeen the Super Eagles and the Walya Antelopes, to decide the possessor of one of the tickets to Brazil 2014. A case of - in the words of the BBC commentator - " experience, gaining the upper hand over youthfull enthusiasm and inexperience." Yes, the Super Eagles, notwithstanding the very slow start to the match, showed the experience and class, that make them African champions; which ultimately gave them the day !

What was responsible for the initial uninspiring display of the Super Eagles, more especially for all of 65minutes ? Was it as a result of the effects of the high altitude conditions ?; was it strategy by the Super Eagles' coaches, to conserve energy, and later on make hay, in the second half ?; was it a case of lack of fitness on the part of some of the Super Eagles' players ?; or was it a case of the Super Eagles, being uit-played by the Ethiopians. which resulted in a 60 /40 procent ball possession, in favour of the Ethiopians. at the end of the first half?

One will attempt to provide answer /answers to these questions, by analysing the performance of the team critically:

THE GOALKEEPER:

Vincent Enyeama, did well ; but made the mistake that resulted in the Ethiopian first goal. We shouldn't just yet crucify him. He is still our number 1 goalkeeper.

THE DEFENDERS:

Efe Ambrose, was a shadow of himself. He defended fairly well; but his overlapping runs - his usual trade mark - were often faulty, as he put virtually every foot wrong; making countless faulty passes, in the process.

Elderson Echiejile, was not his usual self either. He was just very average .

Azubuike Egwueke, was slightly more than average; though, had difficulties coping with the Ethiopian central strikers. He is certainly not first choice centre-half, one hopes Kenneth Omeruo, will be back for the second leg. Here is also calling on Keshi, to consider calling -up Onyekachi Apam, to help beef - up this very vital area of our defence.

Godfrey Oboabona, was super; he was the lion in the defence, with his: timely tackles, interceptions, good aerial ability, more sepecially in winning duels and above all his highly intelligent and commendable tactical awareness, as a central defender. He is no doubt a world class defender in the making ! Bravo ! Without him, the Ethiopians, could easily have scored two goals, before the great fight back of the Super Eagles.

THE MID-FIELDERS:

The mid-field was virtually non -existent. for all of the first 65minutes of play; our C.E.O., Mikel Obi, tried to put a foot hold, but he was constantly swept away by the rampaging Ethiopians. He didn't particularly have a good game; he was just average .

His deputy Ogenyi Onazi, did a fairly good job of trying to disrupt the game of the Ethiopians. He was slightly above average.

Nnamdi Oduamadi, was very below average; he put every foot wrong; and lost a very good opportunity for Nigeria's first goal, in the first half. One hopes he ups his game, in Calabar, otherwise he would certainly lose his place as a starting player, in the team.

One would like to appeal to the technical crew, to consider calling - up Joel Obi and Lukman Haruna - two offensive mid-fielders.

THE ATTACKERS:

They were initially, not very much in the picture, no thanks to the under -performing mid-field. However, Emenike recovered to put up a man-of -the -match performance, with two beautiful goals. He is no doubt Nigeria's no. 1 striker of the moment. Shola Ameobi and Uche Nwofor, should exercise some patience for now.

Ahmed Musa. after a slow start, put up a well above average performance; denied of atleast a goal. by a wild Ethiopian tackle close to the Ethiopian eighteen yard box and the cross bar .

Victor Moses was below average, and missed a sitter, in the second half.

THE SUBSTITUTES:

Nosa Igiebor, didn't put up a particularly individual brilliant performance, but contributed his quota towards ensuring more stability in mid-field in the second half, when Coach Keshi changed the pattern of play of the team from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2.

Brown Ideye, like Nosa was not individually brilliant, but contributed his own quota towards mid-field stability.

THE TECHNICAL CREW:

I have always had admiration for the way they have gone about their job; but in that game, I had problems with some of their decisions :

Why did it take them all of 65 minutes before substituting Nnamdi Oduamadi, who was clearly not in the game ?;

Why did Stephen Keshi stick for so long to a 4-3-3 formation, that didn't yield fruits. in the face of the rampaging Ethiopian midfield, that had as many as four players ? Why didn't the" big boss "add one extra man in mid-field, even in the first half at a time the Super Eagles, were having a lot of difficulties coping with the Ethiopian mid-field . Asking Victor Moses to withdraw into the mid-field. could have helped matters in this regard. Any how, thanks goodness, they eventually made the desired changes, albeit, later on in the game.

CONCLUSION:

With regards the reasons for the rather slow start to the game, meethinks, all of the above-mentioned possibilities certainly played a part in our initial under-performance. These should serve as a veritable lesson for the future, more especially as we prepare for the return leg, in Calabar, Nigeria. The Super Eagles and the technical crew. should by now realise that the Ethiopians, are no walk -overs; not withstanding our 2-1 lead, we should keep our feet firmly on the ground; correct the noticed lapses and hopefully defeat the Ethiopians with decent soccer, in Calabar, come 16th November.

The ticket to Brazil. to all intents and purposes. may have been bought, but not yet confirmed ! One cannot travel with an unconfirmed ticket; in this regard all these talks about the Italy friendly -though a good move by the NFF - in my considerd opinion are preposterious. We should first of all cross the Ethiopian bridge !

UP SUPER EAGLES; UP NIGERIA; BRAZIL 2014, IS A MUST.

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