Cyril C. NwokejiSaturday, October 24, 2015




elgium has been an adopted country for the past twenty-five years. It was of course normal that when the Super Eagles, were scheduled to play two friendly matches, here, yours sincerely couldn't have missed the matches for anything in the world. As a soccer 'fanatic,' it was a rare opportunity, one couldn't have let slip up. Eversince one left the shores of my country of birth Nigeria, for what has been and still remains a "European sojourn ," one hasn't been opportuned to watch the Super Eagles live, in the flesh! My following of their live performances, has essentially, thus far, been limited to watching them on television; or in more recent times through the computer .

Thus, the chance to see them perform live in a stadium, in Belgium, was one too good to be passed up. As soon as the match dates and venues were announced, one quickly made up his mind, to attend the matches. The first match on the 8th of October, in Vise, Liege, against Congo, was scheduled to be watched with some Nigerian friends. I decided to buy my match ticket right at the stadium, on match day, since one reasoned that there was not likely to be a mammoth crowd at the match venue. That decision with benefit of hindsight, proved to be wise, as an unexpected call of duty, prevented me from watching the first match. It pained me that one unexpectedly missed the match against the Democratic republic of Congo. However, after I learnt of how the Super Eagles, performed in the first match, particularly, in the first half, one's sense of loss, was somewhat assuaged.

The match against Congo, particularly in the first half, was a "non-performance!" Apparently, the Super Eagles, reeling from the effects of the earlier imbroglio, in the camp, were not focused enough to give Congo a decent fight. The second half was better, but the damage had been done, in the first half; and the Congolese cruised home to a 2-0 victory .

The second match against the "Indomitable Lions" of Cameroun, was one match one swore never to miss; and as if to underscore this point, one bought one's ticket, through a Camerounian friend, two days before the match. Yours sincerely, has always been a firm admirer of the Camerounian senior national side. The memories of their three victories over Nigeria, at the Afcon competition's final matches: 1984; 1988 and 2000, are still vivid! Although the present Camerounian side, is by comparison, a far cry from the" Indomitable Lions," of yore; nevertheless, one still thought it was worth one's nikel and time to watch these two exciting teams with a rich history in African soccer, go toe to toe, in a friendly match situation; the first meeting since, 2004.

On match day ,yours sincerely, left home around 17h30, for the match, that was scheduled to start at 20h. One decided to go by public transport, since one didn't want to be bugged down by the usually notorious traffic grid lock, for which Brussels, is known, particularly on days like that. Despite, the earlier google search, carried out by my son for me, in the hours leading up to my departure, one still encounterd difficulties, locating the match venue. As a consequence, one lost precious time, and arrived at the stadium -" Stade Edmond Machtens ," in Molenbeek, Saint Jean, Brussels - some five minutes before kick off time. I quickly made my way to my seat. Fortunately, the match started fifteen minutes later than scheduled, due to the late arrival of the Camerounians; thus one had enough time to settle down, before the start of 'hostilities.'

The players filled out of the tunnel, shortly afterwards, and it was a rare opportunity, to see the likes of: Skipper Ahmed Musa, Mikel Obi, Ogenyi Onazi, Emmanuel Emenike, Efe Ambrose, Elderson Echiejile; and of course, of more recent memory: Leon Balogun, Goalkeeper Carl Ikeme, Sylvester Igbonu and Moses Simon, in the flesh!

The Super Eagles played in 4-3-3 formation, with the above mentioned players; and took the initiative in mid-field, at the blast of the refree's whistle. They dominated the mid-field, as John Mikel Obi, held sway, in the mid-field, sending those crisp, cross, sexy passes to the Super Eagles players. He never lost any mid-field battle, never made a wrong pass and was never dispossessed of the ball, for the seventy minutes he played! Anybody who thinks John Mikel Obi, is finished as a player, or rather has nothing to offer the Super Eagles, must be in dream land. That player is a bundle of talent! Little wonder, Jose Mourinho, refuses to sell him! He was my "man of the match." Ogenyi Onazi, was also brilliant and played his part, in contributing to Nigeria's mid-field dominance; which was the key to Super Eagles' victory. The other member of the mid-field troika: Sylvester Igbonu, who was the offensive mid-fielder, was also brilliant; his performance, coupled with the performances of some junior internationals, gives one hope that the Super Eagles offensive mid-field problems, would soon be a thing of the past.

The offensive weelde, was not so sharp in the first half, as the Camerounians defended stoutly, to keep the Super Eagles attackers at bay. Skipper Ahmed Musa, didn't particularly have a brilliant game; but still gave the vital pass in the second half, in a brilliant counter attack, that resulted in Nigeria's second goal, through the brilliant starlet: Moses Simon. Talking about that young man, he was a gezel, a constant thorn in the flesh of the Camerounian defence, particularly, in the second half. He is no doubt a highly talented youngster, and has the potentials to be a very big player in the future. He has: speed, skills and ball vision. Little wonder, he played such a very important role, in the success of his team: "AA Gent," in the Belgian top flight, last season. He however lacks the ruggedness of a winger. The Camerounian right back, exploited that weakness, in his game, to checkmate him, particularly in the first half. With time ,as he develops more muscles, that problem would be solved. The discovery of Moses Simon, as a Super Eagles' winger, gives the Super Eagles wing play, more options! Emmanuel Emenike, wasn't at his usual best. He was tightly marked by the Camerounian central defenders. His replacement in the second half : Odion Ighalo, was predacious enough, to nod home the third goal on the night, in the few minutes he played. But one still considers him, a very important member of the Super Eagles.

The Super Eagles' defence ,was generally tight, but one noticed some lapses: they gave away vital space, in the eighteen yard box, in the first half, to opposing attackers, which caused some anxious moments, for the Super Eagles, and for those of us who watched from the stands.The defenders need to be sharper and alerter, in their tackles, particularly, at the heart of the defence - the central defence. One also noticed that the communication between the goalkeeper and the defenders, was not optimal. Efe Ambrose, nearly scored an own goal in the first half, as a consequence. This is not unusual, considering the fact that the goalkeeper, has played just four times for the Super Eagles; with time, this problem would be solved. By far the best man in the defence ,for me, was Leon Balogun. He was the centre-half back; he organised the defence well; and kept his cool, in the face of some dangerous moves of the opponents. He was strong in the duels, neat in the tackles and was pleasant in the overlapping runs! Leon Balogun, is a defender with class, and the fact that he plays in the Bundesliga, was evident, on that day. He is certainly a very important addition to the Super Eagles' defensive set up. Efe Ambrose, had a good game, and scored the first goal. He has certainly played himself back into the Super Eagles. Whether he would be first choice, in the Super Eagles central defence, is another issue altogether; with the expected return of " Field Marshall" Kenneth Omeruo .The likely 'casualty' in the first choice Super Eagles' defence, in the light of the defensive re-organisation, by Coach Oliseh, is the likely dropping of Godfrey" Obo-fantastic-abona ." He is no doubt a talented player with a bright future, but may henceforth contribute his quota, to the Super Eagles' defence, from the substitute's bench. Make no mistakes about it, he is still very much relevant to the Super Eagles' project!

The full backs were okay on that day. They defended well and overlapped fairly well. Elderson Echiejile's pull out ,was nodded into the net, by Odion Ighalo, for Nigeria's third goal .

The goalkeeper: Carl Ikeme, was generally on holiday; but was still called upon, to pull off a world class save, in the second half. He is no doubt a top goalkeeper; considering his heroic performance, in Tanzania. Standing at 6ft 3', one has the impression, the Super Eagles rear guard, is well protected .

In Conclusion, it was a good general repetition, by the Super Eagles, before their World cup dates in November. One believes the Super Eagles are not yet there, but they gave Nigerians who watched them against Cameroun, hope in a better and brighter tomorrow.

Iseeeeeeeeeh !!!!!

UP COACH OLISEH !!!!! UP SUPER EAGLES !!!!!!!!! UP NIGERIA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!