|Tuesday, October 30, 2018|
t was indeed a thriller, a classical thriller of sorts. Like in the first leg clash in Uyo, the "Mediterranean Knights" of Libya, didn't shy away from playing attacking soccer- a better situation for the Super Eagles. On the one hand, they had no choice, since there were playing at "home", and had lost the first leg match; on the other hand, and fortunately for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, they had a coach who believes in attacking soccer, even when they played Nigeria, in Uyo.
Talking about a fortunate situation for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, if the former coach of the Libyans, who resigned shortly before the first leg match - Adel Amrouche, had been in charge, the Super Eagles would have had a tougher time in Uyo. As he would have lined up virtually the whole Libyan players in front of goal, in a defensive disposition! Readers should remember how he frustrated the Super Eagles, in Uyo, in 2013, in a 2014 World cup qualifier. A match that was also supposed to serve as a sort of celebration for the Super Eagles' victory at the 2013 Nations' cup competition. Through his rather unorthodox defensive approach to the game, he nearly spoilt the 'party', as the Super Eagles managed to scrape out a 94th minute equaliser, with a minute to the end of the match in extra time!
Coach Rohr, apparently, with a knowledge of this history, decided against using the smaller Kaduna stadium, which would have given the Super Eagles little room to spread their wings, in their famed offensive 4-3-3 approach, and would have made it much easier for the defensive tactics of their opponents.
However, in Uyo, they met a highly or somewhat naively offensive Libyan team, that attacked and gave out a decent measure of space behind. What happened subsequently in that match is history.
In the return leg in Sfax, Tunisia, the Libyans once more chose for offensive soccer, this time around, with better defensive precautions. That notwithstanding, like in the first leg match, they met a highly determined and more talented Nigerian side, that was determined to do business and get the job done!
As a consequence of the Super Eagles' disposition, in Sfax, they scored two quick goals, within the first fifteen minutes of the game! Yours sincerely thought the game was over, as one reasoned that the Libyans would be too discouraged to fight back, more especially, against the back drop of the 4-0 spanking in Nigeria. One thought that against the aforementioned backdrop, the Libyans, would be much more concerned about limiting the damage, than trying to fight back.
Yours sincerely was wrong, as the Libyans not only fought back, but gradually started dictating the pace of the game, as a consequence of the increasingly tired Super Eagles players; who started feeling the impact of playing two top matches, in three days; and coupled with the consequences of a long journey to Tunisia. The Libyans, notwithstanding having the same problems as the Nigerians, had the extra advantage of adrenaline, that kept them going, even in difficult circumstances!!!!
As a consequence of the Libyan resurgence, the Libyans scored one goal in the first half. The first half score of 2-1, reflected the run of play.
In the second half, one expected a resurgent Super Eagles that would at the very least try to stop the increasingly rampaging Libyans. But that was not to be as the Libyans swarmed all over the Super Eagles, who as a consequence of increasing tiredness, not only increasingly lacked stamina to tackle the Libyans, but also gradually lost concentration and consequently, lost their organisation on the field of play!
The net effect of the above scenario was that the Super Eagles, gradually, became indiscernible on the field of play. Yours sincerely while watching the match, knew the mid-field had collapsed and knew that the biggest problem was with the defensive mid-field. Etebo Oghenekaro, alias "Turbo Engine", who played in that position, was totally absent, no thanks to the aforementioned problems. He lost all battles in defensive mid-field position and the Super Eagles players made many faulty passes, thus, further aiding the Libyans! At that juncture, yours sincerely, wished Coach Rohr, would take charge tactically and effect the necessary changes in mid-field, with a view to shoring-up the mid-field. When Coach Rohr, didn't react as expected, one started shouting in frustration( as if Coach Rohr would hear me) at what one considered an obvious tactical lapse by the usually tactically shrewd Coach Rohr.
The consequence of the delay in taking charge tactically when it mattered most, was that the Libyans got the equaliser, with less than twenty minutes to go. And had at that point in time, taken the wind out of the sails of the Super Eagles' adventure! They looked like they were going to get at least a point from the match, which would have somewhat disorganised the objective of the Super Eagles, going into the Libyan encounter: to get all six points at stake!
However, the in-form striker: Odion Ighalo, alias "Top 9", had a different opinion than the Libyans. A combination of his opportunism and technical knowhow, prevailed, as he got the decider, less than ten minutes to the end of the game, to send Nigerians into a delirium!!!!!!
One must congratulate all the Super Eagles players, for their courage and determination over the two legs of the Libyan encounter! They really made Nigeria and Nigerians proud, and have significantly raised hopes for an eventual participation at the 2019 Nations' cup competition; as a point from the remaining two encounters would do it!
In conclusion, one thing that struck me in the two-legged encounter with the Libyans, was the determination, courage, gusto and consequently urgency, with which the Super Eagles took on the Libyans. Right from the very first minute in both encounters, they went after the Libyans. They played like a team that had a mission: to collect all six points from Libya. This uncanny spirit, certainly played a big role in their accomplishment of the objective against the Libyans. So with all due humility, and a deep sense of pride in the Super Eagles of Nigeria, yours sincerely proudly proclaims that in the battle against the Libyans, it was a case of: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: all six points are in the kitty!!!!
UP SUPER EAGLES! UP NIGERIA!!!!!!!!!