|Saturday, June 23, 2018|
he score of Nigeria 2, Iceland 0, was more than welcome relief to the millions of teeming fans of the Super Eagles of Nigeria, particularly Nigerians, who nearly developed "heart attack", as a consequence of the defeat suffered in the first match of the World cup against the Croats.
At the end of the first half of the epic clash between the Super Eagles and Iceland, with the Super Eagles yet to completely find their feet, some Nigerians were further infuriated by the performance of the Super Eagles. Yours sincerely was bombarded on his face book page with questions like:" What is happening to your Super Eagles"; others wondered," Are these boys serious at all ?"; while others wondered if Coach Rohr was serious with our boys. Yours sincerely took temporary cover, and refused to respond to the angry posers. A game is played over ninety minutes and one thought it was too soon to start getting worried over the Super Eagles, after forty -five minutes of play. However, at the end of the day, we were all reconciled and happy that Nigeria won!!!!!!
How did the Super Eagles eventually turn the tables against the stubborn Vikings?
One saw a Super Eagles team that started in a new formation: 3-5-2! In this formation, Coach Rohr used three central defenders: Leon Balogun, at right half back; William Troost-Ekong, at centre-half back and Kenneth Omeruo, at left- half back. We saw a novel five-man mid-field that consisted of: Wilfred Ndidi, as right -sided defensive mid-fielder; Brian Idowu, as left-sided defensive mid-fielder; Skipper John Mikel Obi, as central mid-fielder, who co-ordinated affairs from central mid-field, unlike in the first match when played as an offensive mid-fielder, behind the striker: Number 10. Victor Moses, was the right-sided offensive/ wing mid-fielder and Etebo Oghenekaro, was the left-sided offensive mid-fielder. The two-man striking partnership was made up of: Ahmed Musa and Kelechi Iheanacho.
In the first half, the team couldn't find it's balance, apparently, because of not being used to the new system, and, apparently, because of the "wall of Kilimanjaro", which was built up by the Vikings. As a consequence, while the Super Eagles defended better, they couldn't create chances. It was so bad that no shot was fired at the goal of the Icelanders, for all of the first forty-five minutes of the game!
At half time, the shrewd tactical master: Coach Gernot Rohr, having quickly analysed the situation, decided to continue with the formation, but now decided to modify it, by bringing in Tyronne Ebuehi, who with his known quick footballing ability down the flanks, in his overlapping runs, would bring the necessary width to the Super Eagles' attack down the left flank. This was essentially missing in the first half. Tyronne Ebuehi, did Coach Rohr's bidding! Coach Rohr, apparently, told the other players, to add a decent measure of punch and urgency to their game. This was done!
The net effect of these changes, was that we saw in the second half, a Super Eagles' team that put extra pressure on the Icelanders; who though defended with man and might, but now felt the heat of the Super Eagles' offensive moves.
Their "wall of Kilimanjaro", was finally broken when Victor Moses made a fine lobbed pass to Ahmed Musa, who deftly and intelligently controlled the ball before firing home, for the Super Eagles' opener! It was by no means an opportunistic goal, but one scored with a lot of soccer artistry, confidence and intelligence, or in local parlance, "football sense"!!!!! Yours sincerely has always known that Ahmed Musa, is a highly gifted soccer player!
That goal, figuratively, broke the back of the Icelanders, who had to abandon their tactical defensive game for more adventure upfront. This brought about more spaces in their defensive set up, which the Nigerians exploited. The near close shaves experienced by Icelander as a consequence of the shots of Wilfred Ndidi and Ahmed Musa, gave credence to this reality. Finally, there was no stopping Ahmed Musa's second goal, who further exploited the yawning spaces in the defence of the Icelanders! It was clear from then onwards the Icelanders were dispirited! However, an overzealous tackle by Tyronne Ebuehi, nearly re-invigorated the Icelanders. Fortuitously, the resultant penalty was missed. This should be a lesson to Tyronne Ebuehi and indeed all the Super Eagles' players, they need to watch their tackles in the vital area. Nowadays even the "Video referee" helps the referees to detect what goes on on the field of play!
It was a heart-warming victory by the Super Eagles of Nigeria. Victory that re-invigorates Nigeria's World cup campaign! But it is not yet hurray!
While acknowledging the magnificent role played by the players, since they did the 'dirty' work on the field of play, one cannot but acknowledge the role played by Coach Rohr and the technical crew. Coach Rohr, particularly, was the butt of criticisms after the first match, he was undaunted and tactically re-organised the team for the match against the Icelanders. When the tactic was apparently not effective in the first half, he made the necessary changes that changed the tide of the game in Nigeria's favour, in the second half!
This makes the point about the calibre of coaches that should coach the Super Eagles of Nigeria, henceforth. Gone are the days when Nigeria hired coaches who cannot even read a match!!!!!! A team with a very bad coach facing a team with a decent coach, has in principle, lost the match even before the first ball is kicked! Soccer nowadays, has become a "coaches' game"! This should be a big lesson to our soccer administrators.
Going forward, the Argentinian bridge must be crossed before qualification for the knock-out stage of the competition! Me thinks that please God, Nigeria will defeat Argentina on the 26th of June. Yours sincerely has carefully observed the Argentinians in the last six months, and has seen a team of individually highly talented players, but no solid team! They also rely heavily on Lionel Messi. The Super Eagles should take a cue from how the Croats tactically contained Messi, during their encounter. They tactically marked him out as team, in "blok"! In other words, whenever, Messi had the ball, they formed a "tactical cordon" around him, made up of a number of players! Me thinks that is a better way of containing Messi, as opposed to detailing one person to mark him out.
In conclusion, a Camerounian friend of mine, who called to congratulate me after the match against the Vikings, predicted that from now onwards, the soccer world would see the "real" Super Eagles of Nigeria, in the ongoing World cup competition!
Yours sincerely couldn't agree more. The Super Eagles of Nigeria, please God, will take the soccer world by storm, at the 2018 World cup competition!!!!
"Anyi bu nkwa!" " Iseeeehhhhhh!"
UP SUPEREAGLES! UP NIGERIA!!!!!!