Cyril C. NwokejiTuesday, September 12, 2017


t was a result nobody would have betted his money on; not even those of us who are ardent, fanatic and very commited supporters of the Super Eagles of Nigeria. The Super Eagles surprised every one of us with their near flawless performance in the first of the double header confrontation against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun, in Uyo, Nigeria! Those Eagles were super, very super, fantastic, fantabulous; outrightly marvelous, in that match. Yours sincerely is short of superlatives to describe their performance. It was a Super Eagles' performance never seen before in the last twenty-three years! Never since the 1994 World cup tournament in the United States of America, have Nigerians seen a Super Eagles team put up such a scintillating, exhilarating performance! It was a Super Eagles' team at it's ravishingly, razingly best, on display! As a result they made the once feared, ferocious" Indomitable Lions" of Cameroun, for once, look like a bunch of helpless, hapless, intimidated, inglorious cubs! Kudos to the boys, their handlers, the NFF and all of us, for that rare wonderful display of soccer prowess and - artistry!!!!!!" Anyi bu nkwa! "

The most heart-warming aspect of this emerging Super Eagles' story is that we apparently have a coach who is gradually getting the best out of the Super Eagles' players. A coach who is gradually making those boys express themselves better on the field of play, according to their God-given potentials. By the time those boys get to the zenith of their performance, they would be certainly unstoppable; they would certainly take the soccer world by storm!

How did they accomplish that feat ? We shall attempt to analyse the football technical aspects of that rare five-star performance of the Super Eagles of Nigeria, in Uyo, on the 1st of September, 2017:

Meethinks Coach Gernot Rohr, has apparently, found the right tactical balance for the Super Eagles of Nigeria: the 4-3-3 formation! In this formation, the coach employed the services of two mobile defensive mid-fielders, who not only helped the team defensively, but brought a lot of footballing ability to the team. He also used a "top 9," or conventional centre-forward.

Let's examine details of his tactical set up on that day:

The Goalkeeper :

Goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa, was very confident, for a goalkeeper who made his competitive debut for the Super Eagles of Nigeria. Though he was firmly coverd up by the defence, the few half chances of the Camerounians, were effortlessly smothered by him. Congrats to him!

The Defenders :

The back four was not only solid individually, but also collectively! Congrats to: Abdullahi Shehu, alias "Man O War ", at right back; the "Recalcitrant" Elderson Echiejile, at left back; William Troost- Ekong, alias "Rock of Gibralter", at centre-half back and "Commander-General" Leon Balogun, at left-half back.

The Mid-fielders :

Coach Rohr, used two mobile defensive mid-fielders, who not only helped the team defensively, but also brought a lot of footballing ability to the team; that way helped the team immensely! As a consequence, the team's hitherto wobbly defence, regained it's solidity; also the offensive impulses of the team, was also helped! The pair of Ogenyi Onazi, alias "the angry wasp", who chases his opponents to hell and Wilfred Ndidi, alias" the baggy bagger", did their job in this respect creditably well. Mobile defensive mid-fielders, are modern defensive mid-fielders!

As a consequence of the tactical re-adjustments in mid-field, the tactically erudite Skipper John Obi Mikel, had enough time and space to move upfront as an offensive mid-fielder; and played as a typical number 10, as depicted by the number of the shirt he wore on that day. He was very effective, as he not only spear-headed the Super Eagles' offensive thrusts, but gave the vital pass that resulted in the first goal and also scored the second goal himself! Congrats to the mid-fielders!

The Attackers :

Coach Rohr, used a three-man attacking formation. In this foramation, Odion Ighalo, played as a conventional centre-forward, a" top nine "; a top striker, the arrow head of the Super Eagles' offensive thrusts. In this role, Odion Ighalo, was in his elements, as he had the necessary space, from the point of view of his team, to take on the Camerounian central defenders. He didn't have the problem of having to share the central offensive space with another team mate, in a "twin strikers' partnership ". This had always been the problem of Odion Ighalo, in his previous matches for the Super Eagles: he shared space with a fellow central striker. For example, in the game against Tanzania, in September, 2016, he played in a twin strikers' partnership with Kelechi Iheanacho, and they constantly ran into each other's space, and, consequently, unwittingly, hinderd each other, in the quest for goals! This contributed to the low score win against the Tanzanians.

The same problem manifested it's self in the lost match against Egypt, in March 2016, in Alexandria, Egypt. Then he shared space with another central striker: Sadiq Umar, and was not in his elements.

In the match against the Camerounians, he played as a "top striker" and scored a typical top striker's goal thus: He collected a beautiful pass from Skipper John Obi Mikel, used his physical ability, to withstand the challenge of the Camerounian central defender, exploited his technical bagage, with his fanciful footwork, to disorient, and disorganise the Camerounian goalkeeper and of course used his wealth of experience, to remain cool-headed under pressure, to finally slot home Nigeria's first goal! It was a typical top striker's goal. Odion Ighalo, is a top striker. Yours sincerely is happy Coach Rohr, has recognised this fact. Consequently he earns the nickname, from your sincerely, of "Top 9 ".

The silvery, silky, flowery-skilled, magnificent and ubiquitous Victor Moses and Simon Moses, alias" the atilogwu dancer ", were superb, as conventional wingers, in the new tactical set up of Coach Rohr. Their" twin-wingers" partnership, resulted in the third goal, scored by Victor Moses. Congrats to the strikers!

The second leg match represented a somewhat subdued performance by the Super Eagles. This is understandable, considering the fact they had just two days rest before the return leg! All the same, they put up a creditable performance under the circumstance and nearly upstaged the Camerounians at home.

In conclusion, the Super Eagles have not gotten the World cup ticket, but they are presently, figuratively, hovering around the Russian borders. If they keep their feet firmly on the ground, with their eyes focused on the big prize, with their hunger, anger, determination, ambition and desire, yours sincerely believes that please God, they would eventually land in Russia. That would please God, herald a new chapter, not only in the annals of Nigerian soccer history, but in the annals of African soccer history! For these Eagles would not be in Russia, to simply make-up the numbers. We shall discuss this in the later articles.

For now let's savour this sweet victory over the Camerounians; and the fact it was mission accomplished for the Super Eagles of Nigeria: the Super Eagles, as expected, got four points out of a maximum of six!

Yours sincerely loves the Super Eagles of Nigeria, and you ?

" Anyi bu nkwa!" Iseeeeeeeeeeh!!!!!!