THE "NITTY - GRITTY" SUPER EAGLES OF NIGERIA FINALLY SUBDUE THE STUBBORN "CHIPOLOPOLO" AND LAND IN RUSSIA!
t was a hard match, a very hard match! A very difficult testy duel that kept all of us at the edge of our seats for all of ninety minutes. It was indeed a cracker; the type not always seen in a soccer match. The Zambians were difficult, but the Super Eagles of Nigeria, were much more difficult; the Zambians, were tough, but the Super Eagles were tougher; the Zambians, were rugged, the Super Eagles were much more rugged; the Zambians were determined to get all three points, the Super Eagles were much more determined to get the three points and land in Russia. And they finally did! We shall continue with this line of thinking later on in the article.
Let's evaluate the Super Eagles' players' performance on that day :
GOALKEEPER Ikechukwu Ezenwa, 7/10; was as usual at his confident best! That young man continues to impress me; so far not necessarily as a consequence of his goalkeeping prowess(he has so far been adequately covered by the defence), but by his uncanny self confidence, for a young goalkeeper, who is just getting on the biggest stage in soccer!
THE DEFENDERS :
*Shehu Abdullahi, alias" Man O War," 8,5/10; was deservedly the man of the match; and made the CAF team for the fifth round of the World cup qualifiers! He was no doubt excellent on that day. He gave the vital pass that resulted in the lone goal. Yours sincerely has given him his alias, mainly because of his peculiar playing style: He is very strong on man-to -man situations. His overlapping runs are very ok. He may not be the most flowery, - skillful fullback yours sincerely has seen, but his performance as right back is very much ok. Coach Rohr needs not look any further.
* "The Recalcitrant" Elderson Echiejile, 7/10; was good on that day. One must however hasten to add that given his years of service, he is no doubt nearing the "pension" age for soccer players. If he maintains his present form, he will most likely make the starting eleven in Russia.
*William Troost-Ekong, alias "Rock of Gibralter," 8/10; has really grown to be a dependable centre-half back. The regular playing time in Turkey, has certainly helped him a great deal. He was very solid on that day: he won all his duels, was very strong on man-to-man situation, his positional play, was very efficient and above all was the undisputed leader of the back four!
*"Commander-general" Leon Balogun, 8/10; was also very solid. He put up a five-star performance, and has together with William Troost-Ekong, formed a rock solid combo, in the heart of the Super Eagles' defence. A combo that reminds me of past great central defensive combos that have been efficient: the combo between my good friend and soccer mentor, Joachins Aronu Ogugua, alias "Gorimapa" and Richmond Gbontir, in the all-conquering St. Gregory's college soccer team of the seventies; the combo between" Chairman" Christian Chukwu and Godwin Odiye, alias "Mr. No way," in the heart of the Super Eagles' defence, under Coach Tiko, of blessed memory; the combo between Tunde Bamidele of blessed memory and Leotis Boateng, in the Super Eagles, under coaching guidance of Coach Otto Gloria, of blessed memory; the combo between Francis Monidafe and Leotis Boateng, in the all-conquering "Bendel Insurance Football club", of the late seventies; the combo between Stephen Keshi, alias the "big boss", of blessed memory and Taiwo Ogunjobi, in the Super Eagles, under coaching tutelage of Coach Adegboye Onigbinde; the combo between Stephen Keshi and Sunday Eboigbe, alias "Sunday New Benin", also under Coach Onigbinde; the combo between my good friend, Chidi Nwanu and Uche Okechukwu, alias" Uche Baba," under coach Clemens Westerhoff, at the World cup tournament, in the United States of America, in 1994.
Nigerians can be rest assured the Super Eagles now have a rock solid back four!
Ogenyi" the angry wasp" Onazi, who chases his opponents to 'hell', didn't play sufficiently long enough to be assessed. But for the twenty -five minutes he played, he was ok.
Wilfred Ndidi, alias" the baggy bagger", 7/10; was very effective, as a mobile defensive mid-fielder.
The tactically erudite Skipper John Obi Mikel, 8/10; was at his masterful best!
The silvery, silky, flowery-skilled, magnificent and ubiquitous Victor Moses, 8/10; was as usual, at his majestic best! One needs not make further clarifications.
Simon Moses, alias "the Atilogwu dancer," 7/10; was good on that day.
Odion Ighalo, alias "top 9," 7/10; was effective as deepest striker.
Mike Agu, 5/10; replaced Ogenyi Onazi, after twenty-five minutes. He had enough time to display his soccer ability; meethinks he performed averagely. Apparently as a consequence of overzealousness, he got himself a quick yellow card ,and subsequently had to play 'carefully' to avoid a red card. This certainly affected his overall performance. A more relaxed Mike Agu, would have done better. This should be a lesson to him for the future!
Alex Iwobi, alias the "dancing Krekel," 7/10; performed magic, for the short period he played - about twenty-five minutes! He was the catalyst that further raised the performance of the team, at a time that needed to be done, to get past the stubborn Zambians. And to cap a beautiful day's performance, he got the much needed goal; the "golden goal" that took the Super Eagles to Russia '2018! Coach Rohr no doubt read the match well and made the golden change that brought about the" golden goal "!
Ola Aina, played for too short a period of time to be assessed. However one is happy he has irreversibly committed himself to playing for Nigeria, by winning his first competitive cap for Nigeria.
In conclusion, It was a very tough match for the Super Eagles of Nigeria. But the raw, rugged determination and skills of the Super Eagles, saw them through. It was such a very difficult match that victory was gotten at the death; by the oddest of margins!