Saturday, June 11, 2022

he score of 2-1, in favour of the Super Eagles of Nigeria, in all honesty, didn't reflect the run of play. The Super Eagles of Nigeria, after an initial shaky start, dominated proceedings right to the end, as evidenced by about a 70 percent ball possession advantage! But, partly, consistent with their stubborn nature, more especially when they encounter the Super Eagles of Nigeria, they refused to go down with a much bigger margin, that would have reflected the Super Eagles' superiority over them in that match! There were other factors that militated against a much wider margin of defeat for the "Leone Stars". We shall discuss them at the concluding part of this piece.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria, in their very first competitive match under Coach Peseiro, were organised in a 4-4-2 formation. Coach Peseiro has made no secret of his intention to use a twin-strikers' partnership for the Super Eagles of Nigeria. He used this strikers' partnership in the twee friendly matches he played in the United States of America, at the very start of his tenure as Super Eagles' gaffer in chief.

In the match against Sierra-leone: Goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, was in goal. And in my considered opinion, did well enough to justify his continuation as the Super Eagles' number 1 goalkeeper.

The four-man defence had : the "Usually brilliant" Ola Aina , at right-back. One noticed he was not as strong as usual in the discharge of his defensive responsibilities. Certainly not at his characteristic brilliant best, in the discharge of this aspect of his duties. May be because of tiredness, after a hectic season. This weakness made the Sierra-Leoneans exploit his side of the defence to launch many offensive forays, which resulted in their goal and even almost in a second goal! He, however, somewhat redeemed himself by providing the pull out that resulted in the second goal to Nigeria.

The "effervescent" Calvin Bassey, was superbly brilliant at left-back.

Skipper William Troost-Ekong, alias "Rock of Gibralter", at centre-half back, was solid, until he was replaced as a consequence of the unfortunate injury he got towards the end of the game.

Semi Ajayi, at left-half back, had a solid game.

The mid-field quartet had: Alex Iwobi, alias the "dancing Krekel", as central mid-fielder. The "highly dynamic" Joe Aribo, also as central mid-fielder. They both played well. And were the lynch pin of many a Super Eagles' offensive moves.

Samuel Chukwueze, alias "El Fantastico", was the right-winged offensive mid-fielder; he put up a rather subdued performance, and Moses Simon, alias "The Atilogwu dancer", was the left-winged offensive mid-fielder. He was not at the best of his elements.

The twin strikers' partnership consisted of Victor Oshimen, alias "El Magnifico" and Sadiq Umar. They both played well. Sadiq Umar, was tactically removed to create the much-needed mid-field balance!

At the onset of the game, one noticed the mid-field lacked balance, this was occasioned by the lack of a natural defensive mid-fielder! Alex Iwobi and Joe Aribo, tried to improvise, but their not being naturally endowed as defensive mid-fielders, showed clearly, as the Sierra-Leonean offensive onslaughts, more especially, from the left side of Nigeria's defence, couldn't be dealt with properly! This resulted in the first goal to Sierra-Leone! And almost in a second goal that fortuitously hit Nigeria's woodwork!

However, the Super Eagles of Nigeria quickly restored parity with a brilliant goal by Alex Iwobi! And went on to score a second goal by Victor Oshimen!

At half time, Coach Peseiro, brilliantly read the anomaly in the Super Eagles' tactical organisation, and tweaked the team's formation from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3, by replacing Striker Umar Sadiq with a defensive mid-fielder: Oghenekaro Etebo! The Super Eagles subsequently played in a 4-3-3 formation, which was the formation yours sincerely suggested they played in the match against Sierra-Leone, in my analysis of their match with Ecuador.

The Super Eagles, subsequently, played better, with better balance in the mid-field and, subsequently, in all the other lines: defensive and offensive lines. The mid-field being the fulcrum of a team, subsequently, ensured balance in the other lines once a balance was brought into it!

The Super Eagles, subsequently, dominated the match and had the above-mentioned ball possession percentage to their advantage. However, poor finishing robbed them the opportunity of scoring more goals!

In conclusion, there were factors that prevented the Super Eagles from winning bigly in the match against the "Leone Stars" of Sierra-Leone:

Firstly, the recalcitrant nature of the Sierra-leoneans, whenever they encountered Nigeria, as earlier discussed.

Secondly, the initially shaky start, occasioned by some anomaly in the Super Eagles' tactical set-up , as earlier discussed.

Thirdly, the apparent tiredness of some of the Super Eagles players as a consequence of a long soccer season. They missed the much-needed sharpness/dynamism, in front of goal and also in the discharge of their defensive responsibilities!

Fourthly, the relatively poor state of the pitch in the MKO Abiola stadium. This hampered the free-flowing soccer with which the Super Eagles could have torn the Sierra-Leoneans to shreds!

All the same, it is a good start to the reign of Coach Peseiro. One hopes they continue in this stead.



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