Thursday, June 27, 2019

t was indeed a revamped Super Eagles of Nigeria, in comparison with the team that played Burundi, in the opening group's match. The team was revamped not only in terms of the substituted players, Coach Rohr made about five substitutions in comparison with the starting line-up against Burundi; but also revamped in terms of the style of play. Coach Rohr hearkened to the voice of reason and started with the 4-3-3 style of play, that suits the Super Eagles better. As a word of advice to Coach Rohr, any style of play that partially or totally de-emphasizes the use of the wings for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, is fundamentally flawed, and is likely to fail!

Coach Rohr, can consult my book titled: "Super Eagles of Nigeria: Pride of Africa", which reference is given at the end of this piece. In the book, one chronicled the dilemma of a former German Super Eagles' coach: Manfred Hoener, who disobeyed this "golden" rule and of course failed! A brilliant coach like Gernot Rohr, who has the innovative mentality to experiment on new playing methods, can do so, but should never de-emphasize wing play either partially or totally. Doing so could be 'suicidal' !!!! The Super Eagles' players being naturally strong and fast (= physical), are more adapted to a style of play that emphasizes the use of conventional wingers!

As earlier stated, we saw a thoroughly revamped Super Eagles in the match-up against the "Sylli Stars" of Guinea and it showed in the improved performance! Although the Super Eagles are not yet firing on all cylinders, that is normal, for the second match of a tournament. The team will get better as the tournament progresses and hopefully will peak at the right time.

How did the Super Eagles perform 'soccer technically' during the encounter against the Guineans?

One saw Goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, was ok. He didn't commit any blunder throughout the encounter.

We saw a rock solid defence under leadership of "Field Marshall" Kenneth Omeruo, who is in the form of his life; and was the "man of the match"! His imperial presence was felt throughout the encounter! His quintessential header that gave Nigeria the lone goal victory, is unforgettable! He was ably assisted by "Commander General" Leon Balogun, he has certainly played himself back into the team. His timely tackle that prevented a possible Guinean goal in the first half, is noteworthy! The full backs were solid in their tackles and overlapping runs. Chidozie Awaziem, has settled quite well to the right- back position. The brilliant Ola Aina, was as usual in his elements. He played well. He was the "man of the match", in the encounter against the Burundians!

The mid-field, was somewhat the weakest spot of the team! This showed in the slight superior ball possession of the Guineans, at the end of the match.

Me thinks the problem lies in the "collective productivity" of the mid-fielders! The mid-fielders, individually, played well, but collectively were below average. In this wise, much of the responsibility goes to Alex Iwobi, who is the lynchpin/ play maker of the Super Eagles. It is not enough to play well for himself, but to make his presence felt in the team. He should be able to influence the Super Eagles' play generally, through his play maker's role in mid-field. He should view the tapes of matches played by his uncle: the legendary Austin "Jay Jay" Okocha, when he dictated affairs for the Super Eagles in mid-field!

Also the Super Eagles, generally, must improve their passing game. What we saw in this regard against Guinea, was below average for a team of the calibre of the Super Eagles of Nigeria! The players should have more confidence on the ball and try to make better passes even if under pressure from their opponents. When a team makes many faulty passes, they inadvertently aid and abet the opponents' game!

Also in this wise, Coach Rohr should consider re-adapting the 4-3-3 formation of the team, to accommodate more mid-fielders, if this mid-field problem persists, and should the Super Eagles face tougher opponents further down the line in the tournament. A good/ solid team with the advantage of ball possession against Nigeria, could be deadly! If Coach Rohr however, re-adapts the 4-3-3 due to tactical exigencies vis - a- viz the opponent, he should not in any circumstance de-emphasize wing play! A Nigerian speciality !!!!!!

One is however grateful to Wilfred Ndidi, alias the "baggy bagger"; Etebo Oghenekaro, alias "Turbo Engine" and Alex Iwobi, alias " the dancing Krekel", for their efforts in the match against Guinea. The above comments are meant to help them and the rest of the team to up their game for the future, tougher challenges of AFCON 2019!

The offensive line was ok under the circumstances. Moses Simon, alias the "Atilogwu dancer", was good. His contributions were noteworthy! Stand-in Skipper and "Supersonic Jet-heeled" Ahmed "Mansa" Musa, was in his elements, with his pace and uncanny skills; and could have gotten a goal if not for Odion Ighalo's error! Odion Ighalo, alias "Top 9", had a difficult match, no thanks to the tight man-marking he got from the Guinean defenders; nevertheless, he gave a decent performance. However, for the coming matches, he should endeavour to look around whenever he is with the ball in the vital area. Being focused only on one's game in the vital area, is not a sign of top marksmanship!!!!! Soccer is a team event, and a soccer team that plays like a team, has a better chance of success! The goal Ahmed Musa missed, no thanks to his mistake, could have been a problem, if the Super Eagles had gotten an unfavourable result against Guinea!

The substitutes were ok, notwithstanding their cameo appearances: Samuel Chukwueze, Paul Onuachu, and "The adventureous" Samuel Kalu. It is indeed heart-warming that Samuel Chukwueze, was brought in as an offensive mid-fielder, in the place of Alex Iwobi. Coach Rohr recognises that young man's skills and has decided to also use him in the offensive mid-field position. Yours sincerely emphasized this fact about the potentialities of the young man, when he made his debut for Nigeria against the "Cranes of Uganda", in Asaba, in 2018, in the article titled : "Super Eagles of Nigeria forced to a goalless outing by the recalcitrant and stubborn "Cranes" of Uganda!" URL: https://nigeriaworld.com/feature/publication/nwokeji/112318.html

In conclusion, with qualification and a possible leadership of the group already assured, Coach Rohr could afford to experiment with the last group's game against Madagascar. If I were Coach Rohr, at the end of the game against Madagascar, all twenty-three players taken to the AFCON tourney, would have seen action! This would help them get what yours sincerely calls the "Nations' cup match rhythm", which could help the Super Eagles at the later stages of the competition , should any of the non-regular players be called upon to represent Nigeria. The choice is Coach Rohr's!

Nigerians continue to wish the Super Eagles well!!!!


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


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