FEATURE ARTICLE

Cyril C. NwokejiSunday, November 12, 2017
cyril.nwokeji@wol.be
Belgium

NIGERIA 1, ALGERIA 1: A DEAD RUBBER ENCOUNTER!

t was initially billed to have the trappings of a dead rubber, considering the fact that both sides' 'destinies' had already been decided in the world cup qualifying series. Even the rhetorics of the coaches going into the encounter further gave credence to this line of thinking. But save for the first half that was fairly friendly, the second half produced quite a decent measure of fire works, that in some cases even nearly went out of hand, as some of the players nearly lost control of their emotions!

Soccer wise, the teams' performance was hamperd by the bad soccer pitch. Particularly the Super Eagles were most affected. The soccer pitch made controlling of the ball and passing of the ball difficult. Also the players, particularly the Nigerians, couldn't run smoothly and effectively, into space; a major requirement for the Super Eagles' famed counter soccer. The aforementioned problems of the soccer pitch also prevented the Super Eagles from exhibiting their quick positional soccer.

In other words if the game had been played on a better soccer pitch, the Super Eagles would have easily sweept away the Algerians, even on home soil, with a resounding victory! The Algerians no doubt, improved considerably with regards their performance the last time they met the Super Eagles, in Uyo, Nigeria. But this fact notwithstanding, the Super Eagles of Nigeria, without six regular players, was still a better side than the Algerians! The critical question at this juncture is: did the Algerians purposely play that match on a bad pitch, to somewhat 'derail' the Super Eagles of Nigeria, and avoid a possible home defeat? Your guess is as good as mine!

Let's evaluate the players' performance:

The Goalkeeper:

Goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa, put up an average performance. He made two costly mistakes, though,that nearly resulted in goals for the Algerians. Yours sincerely gives him a score of 6/10.

The Defenders :

  • Abdullahi Shehu, alias "Man 'O war", at right back, was the best player in the defence, for me. He was as usual solid in his playing style, and gets the score of 7.5/10.

  • Ola Aina, at left back, was ok. He was solid in his defensive ability, and overlapped well. But the fact he is not left -footed, prevented him from giving the necessary width to the Super Eagles' attack, during his overlapping runs. He gets a score of 6.5/10. Mee thinks he has the potential to do even better at right back.

  • William Troost-Ekong, alias "Rock of Gibralter", at centre-half back, was ok. He gets a score of 6/10.

  • Skipper and "Commander General" Leon Balogun, was initially, not at his confident best, may be because of the injury that forced him to wear a head helmet. Later on, he warmed up to the game, and gets a score of 6/10.

The Mid-fielders :

  • John Ogu, as defensive mid-fielder, was average in performance, 6/10. He scored the goal, but this fact notwithstanding, meethinks, he doesn't fit into the standard and pace of the Super Eagles' mid-field. He tackled somewhat carelessly, and consequently, not only committed unnecessary fouls against his team, but was also booked and risked being sent off. He lacks the quickness, agility, flexibility, mobility, techniek and overall vibrancy required of a Super Eagles' mid-fielder. Meethinks the coaches, given his talent, which still qualifies him to be a member of the Super Eagles, in my thinking, can get the best out of him, if he is converted to a defensive role. For example, he could be converted to a left back, as understudy to Elderson Echiejile. Given his qualities and experience as a midfielder, he would do even better, for Nigeria, as left back!

  • Wilfred Ndidi, alias "the baggy bagger", 6.5/10, was ok. He has certainly burgeoned to be a regular member of the Super Eagles' midfield.

  • Etebo Oghenekaro, alias "Turbo Engine", 7/10, was a delight to behold as creative mid-fielder/play maker. He adequately filled in for Skipper John Obi Mikel. This is a case of Coach Rohr, finding a suitable role for a good player. This is what yours sincerely is craving for John Ogu. Coach Rohr, initially, used Etebo Oghenekaro, as a defensive mid-fielder, in the game against Algeria, in Uyo, last year. He didn't do quite well in that position. He later on used him as supporting striker, this didn't go well, before coach Rohr, finally, found the best position for him, as creative mid-fielder/playmaker. As playmaker, he was in his elements, and gives us hope that if Skipper John Obi Mikel, finally retires, the Super Eagles' mid-field's creative department, will still be in good hands.

The Attackers :

  • The predaciously predacious, Kelechi Ihenacho, was ok. He gets 6/10, he could have done better, if he had a good pitch to adequately exhibit his speed and pace.

  • Alex Iwobi, "the dancing krekel", was above average. He gets 6.5/10. The bad pitch prevented him from exhibiting sufficiently his quintessential skills a la his uncle: "Jay Jay" Okocha!

  • Anthony Nwakaeme, 5/10; was hamperd by the obvious lack of supplies from the wings, no thanks to the bad pitch. Meethinks with better support from the wingers on a better pitch, he would do even better.

The substitutes didn't play sufficiently long enough to be assessed.

In conclusion:

The Super Eagles in the world cup qualification series, African zone, put up a very impressive performance. They were not defeated. They got 14 points out of a maximum 18 points. They qualified for the world cup tournament, with one match to spare! They scored 12 goals and conceded four goals. This attests to their offensive prowess and also to their increasingly better defensive capabilities. The team under Coach Gernot Rohr, has shown steady and significant improvement, in the last fifteen months. Who would have predicted this scenario, fifteen months ago, after the world cup draws were made, and the then "quaky- quaky" Super Eagles, who had just missed qualification for a second consecutive Nations' cup tournament, found themselves in a so called "group of death?" The pundits gave them no chance! But yours sincerely, a firm believer in the ability of the Super Eagles, believed in the world cup qualification. Nigerians, have a way of doing the impossible! That is the reason yours sincerely believes not only in the Super Eagles, soccer wise, but also in our dear country Nigeria!

Now the Super Eagles, have conquered the African opposition enroute to getting the world cup ticket, the Super Eagles are now set to test their mettle against the best opposition from the other continents. The Argentina friendly, is thus, a good starting point in this regard!

"Anyi bu nkwa!"

Iseeeeeeeeh!!!!!

UP SUPER EAGLES! UP NIGERIA!!!!!!!

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