FEATURE ARTICLE

Monday, June 24, 2019
Nwokeji.cyril@gmail.com
Belgium
SUPER EAGLES OF NIGERIA MANAGE A NARROW VICTORY AGAINST THE BATTLING "SWALLOWS" OF BURUNDI!
Nigeria’s forward Odion Ighalo (L) celebrates his goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Nigeria and Burundi at Alexandria Stadium on June 22, 2019.

he performance of the Super Eagles was not quite convincing, to say the least! The standards of soccer have certainly risen on the continent in the last couple of years, but this fact notwithstanding, battling against a Burundian team, rated the lowest of all participating teams at the nations' cup tournament, and managing to eek out a lone goal victory, was certainly not good enough for the three-time African champions, with their array of talented players!

What went wrong with the Super Eagles in the match- up against the Burundians? Or rather, why was achieving victory so difficult for the Super Eagles in the confrontation against Burundi?

Me thinks the fundamental problem was the formation employed by Coach Gernot Rohr! When a coach organises his team wrongly against an opposition, no matter how lowly rated, and no matter the array of stars the wrongly organised team may have, the highly favoured team would likely be in trouble from the onset of the match.

Coach Rohr, for inexplicable reasons, employed a more tactical 4-4-2 formation against a relatively weaker opponent!!!!!! This in yours sincerely's considered opinion, was an unusually naeve tactical mistake made by the usually tactically erudite Coach Rohr!

The Burundians not withstanding their impressive showing against Nigeria, were a team of lower quality than Nigeria. Playing against them with a formation with an unusually 'crowded' (four-man) mid-field, was the wrong approach to the game. This fundamental mistake resulted in victory being difficult to obtain against the Burundians.

What was the 'devil' in the details of the formation employed by Coach Rohr?

Coach Rohr used a four-man defensive organisation, that was ok. He used a four-man mid-field organisation, this was wrong tactically considering the strength of the opposition. He unnecessarily 'crowded' the mid-field. This played into the hands of the opposition, who played a highly compact game( with a well-organised defensive formation); with the concomitant consequence that the Nigerian mid-fielders had little room/space to manoeuvre! Sometimes the Nigerian mid-fielders bumped into each other, during the course of play. They subsequently made many faulty passes, which aided the opposition! Coach Rohr used only two offensive players, a twin strikers' combination - Paul Onuachu and Samuel Chukwueze- who didn't play together, but played 'away' from each other! This is a faulty organisation in a twin strikers' partnership. While Samuel Chukwueze operated from the right wing, and gave the Burundians trouble in the first half, the left wing, save for occasional overlapping thrusts from left-back Ola Aina, was essentially under-utilised! Alex Iwobi, who was supposed to run down that flank from mid-field, didn't do a good job in this respect because of his natural indisposition for operating from the flanks. Alex Iwobi, is a natural offensive mid-field, who operates best behind the striker(s). Coach Rohr knows this for a fact. Why did he then play Alex Iwobi, in an unnatural position?

The combined consequences of an unnecessarily 'crowded' mid-field and the absence of a conventional left winger, who would have brought depth to the Super Eagles' offensive thrusts down the left wing, was that the Super Eagles easily fell prey to the defensive organisation of the Burundians! They were easily 'overcrowded' by the Burundian defenders in their vital area. Consequently, Paul Onuachu, who played as centre-forward, couldn't get the necessary supplies needed to do the damage. The young man tried his best, but the poor tactical organisation of the Super Eagles robbed him of the opportunity to do better against the Burundians.

Why did Coach Rohr opt for such an obviously wrong tactical formation against a relatively weaker opponent?

Yours sincerely cannot fathom why, because one is not in Coach Rohr's mind; and, consequently, didn't know his mind set going into the game. With so much offensive players, particularly, wingers in his team, Coach Rohr cannot easily justify the tactical mistake he made.

However, to err is human. He corrected the tactical mistake he made in the 60th minute of the second half, with the introduction of Ahmed Musa ( a striker), for Skipper John Obi Mikel( a mid-fielder). He consequently changed the team's formation from 4-4-2 to a more offensive and a more effective 4-3-3. This did the magic for Nigeria! This is the formation Coach Rohr should have used from the onset!!!!!!! The pace of Ahmed Musa, gave the Burundians quite a handful of problems! A pace missed by the Super Eagles for one hour of the encounter!

The persistent pressure from the highly determined Nigerians, finally paid off with that "world class" flick of a pass from the highly brilliant Ola Aina, that saw the top striker, Odion Ighalo, crown a very successful substitute's appearance with a world class goal that relieved the pressure from all concerned Nigerians , including yours sincerely!!!!!!!!! The three points and leadership of the group, consequently, are in the kitty !

One must also point out that goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi had a good match; he made two point blank saves that could have resulted in goal(s) for the Burundians. However, he should watch out for the howler he committed that luckily went out for a corner kick. It would have been a different story if the howler was committed in front of goal! He is no doubt a talented goalkeeper and should have more confidence in his ability!

In conclusion, Coach Rohr should weigh his tactical options carefully for subsequent matches of the Super Eagles, particularly in AFCON 2019! Nigerians expect quite a lot from this team; anything less would be unacceptable to Nigerians. Coach Rohr should remember that a coach is as good as his last match! A wrong tactical organisation that results in a less-than expected result, would automatically turn Nigerians against him, notwithstanding his past performances with the Super Eagles of Nigeria. By way of tip, a 4-3-3 formation in the subsequent group's matches would be better. If Coach Rohr, fears the opponents' attacking prowess, he could opt for a 4-3-3 formation, with a slight defensive tinge: with two defensive mid-fielders and of course an offensive midfielder; while asking the wingers to fall back deeply into mid-field, when the Super Eagles are under pressure. A 4-3-3 formation, in which the Super Eagles are more naturally adapted to, and, consequently, in their elements, under normal circumstances, would see the Super Eagles get past Guinea and Madagascar, who one notices are somewhat weak at the back and very vulnerable to fast counters. This vulnerability can be maximally exploited by the Super Eagles, to get the maximum points and leadership of the group!

UP SUPER EAGLES ! UP NIGERIA !!!!!!!!!

Also at the link below, one can come into contact with a number of items, needed to support the Super Eagles at "EGYPT 2019" !!!!!

https://teespring.com/stores/super-eagles-of-nigeria

The book "Super Eagles of Nigeria : Pride of Africa", can also be gotten through the author. One can contact the author through : nwokeji.cyril@gmail.com Please note in this case, payment of postage costs will be necessary

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