Monday, April 1, 2024
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he Super Eagles surprisingly lost to the Eagles of Mali, in Marrakech, Morocco, days after defeating Ghana, in the same friendly encounter series. In other words, they failed to build on their victory over Ghana, as their supporters, and, more especially, the interim coach George Finidi, would have wished for, considering his ambitions to be the Super Eagles' gaffer. This was particularly noteworthy, considering his reluctance to experiment with the array of players at his disposal. He was indeed very 'conservative' with his selection of the team, in one's considered opinion, for earlier-stated reasons. And to a fault, in one's considered opinion. We shall discuss it in the later part of this piece.

Coach Finidi George organised the team, like in the match against Ghana, in a 3-5-2 formation. He basically fielded the same players, except for the introductions of : Stand -in -Skipper Kenneth Omeruo, the centre-half back; Jamilu Collins, the left-wingback; Raphael Onyedika, the defensive mid-fielder and Simon Moses, the supporting striker.

Tactical Analysis:

The Super Eagles lost the initiative shortly after kick-off to the Malians. They dictated the pace of the game. And were aided for the first goal, through a naive gift of a pass in the vital area by a Nigerian defender! This raises questions about the coach's vision of building-up gradually from the back. The concept is good, but the execution can be faulty with the Super Eagles, considering the fact the Super Eagles are not intinsically masters of the "passing game". A better alternative would be to get the ball as quickly as possible out of their vital area; and, also, to avoid as much as possible, passing the ball backwards to their own vital area, during the course of a much, to avoid such costly blunders!

The Malians built on their advantage and presssed for more opportunities. In the later part of the first half, the Super Eagles started finding their rhythm. The first half, ended, 1-0, in favour of the Malians.

In the second half, Coach Finidi George, made no changes, and continued in the same tactical organisation: 3-5-2 !

This was rather surprising considering the fact the Super Eagles were behind and needed a better result. The 3-5-2 he was using was not working from the point of view of getting the goals. The Malians were compact in their defensive organisation. And , thus, the Super Eagles formation that de-emphasised the use of conventional wingers, suited their compact defensive approach.

To further worsen matters, the wing-backs, who were suppossed to fill- in for conventional wingers , as pseudo-wingers, were 'absent' from that aspect of their responsibility. Thus, there was virtually no wing activities! This as earlier mentioned, suited the Malian's compact defensive style!

One expected Coach Finidi George to have changed his style to a more adventureous 4-3-3 formation, that would have used conventional wingers. That way, the Malian compact defensive organisation, would have been forced to spread out to try to cope with the Super Eagles' wingers on both sides of the attack. There would have been a 'thining-out' of their hitherto compact defensive organisation, which would have made it easier for the Super Eagles attackers to make hay!

Surprisingly, Coach Finidi George read the match differently and continued in the 3-5-2 formation, which suited the Malian defensive style.

Consequently, the Super Eagles lost the game. A game , which in one's considered opinion, they couldn't have lost with better tactical management!

Coach Finidi George, had the opportunity of seven substitutions during the match, but only made use of two! Surprisingly, considering the fact he was behind as early as the eighteenth minute of the game! And the two substitutions he made, were not tactic-defining, and, thus, not game-defining substitutions, but conventional changes.

We have had cases where the Super Eagles were behind their opponents at the end of the first half, but went on to win or draw the game at end of ninety minutes! This was as a consequence of intelligent tactical manoeuvering by the then coaches!

Coach Finidi George, 'easily' won the match against Ghana, because his tactic worked from the very beginning to the end. This scenario is desirable for all coaches. But where the tactic used is not working during the course of a match, from the point of view of achieving the objectives, a top coach, will make the necessary re-adjustments to still get the desired results!

Sometimes, a coach can lose a match despite his best efforts; but, then, at the least, one would see his efforts. In the match against Mali, Coach Finidi George didn't do all he could to get a better result; certainly not out of ill will, but, rather, out of, me thinks, a limited knowledge/experience in the coaching business!

Me thinks, a decent gaffer on the bench for Nigeria in the match against Mali, would not have lost that game!

In conclusion, the next Super Eagles coach should be appointed on grounds of competence and not on grounds of nationality, the NFF's finances permitting.



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The book "Super Eagles of Nigeria : Pride of Africa" and "Super Eagles of Nigeria in the New Era" can also be gotten through me using my e-mail address as contact point. [email protected]