Wednesday, November 21, 2018
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he qualification "jinx" for AFCON has been broken! After missing out on the 2015 and 2017 editions of the AFCON, the Super Eagles of Nigeria, have bounced back in a big way for AFCON 2019, in neighbouring country, Cameroun- the country of the "Indomitable" Lions of Cameroun. Yours sincerely has no doubt in his mind that the Super Eagles of Nigeria, would storm that competition in a big way; and make Africa and the rest of the World feel it's presence!

It's been quite a "while" since the Super Eagles of Nigeria graced the Nations' cup competition. Never in the history of Nigerian soccer have the Super Eagles failed to qualify for back-to-back editions of the AFCON competition! The Super Eagles certainly fell into an unenviable soccer doldrum after the AFCON 2013 and the World cup 2014 successes. Apart from missing out on the earlier mentioned editions of the AFCON competitions, they fell to their lowest possible FIFA rating in the world: number 66! This came with the concomitant temporary loss of faith in the Super Eagles of Nigeria.

However, since the appointment of Coach Gernot Rohr, as a consequence of a radical, but with benefit of hindsight, a wise decision by the NFF,( a decision taken against the back drop of the then "Nationalistic" opinion of Nigerians with regards the origin of the Super Eagles coach, whom they thought should be a Nigerian), the fortunes of the Super Eagles experienced a lift, that has so far piloted the team to the 2018 World cup competition in Russia and now the 2019 AFCON competition in Cameroun. In future articles yours sincerely would dwell on the possibilities of the Super Eagles, at the 2019 AFCON competition.

Let's now dwell on the technical aspects of the encounter against the South-Africans.

The Super Eagles played in a: 3-5-2 soccer formation. This formation, emphasises maximal occupation of the mid-field, with five players. Apparently, the not- too- impressive Super Eagles' mid-field against the Libyans, particularly in the first half of the encounter in Uyo, and in the return leg in Sfax, Tunisia, prompted Coach Rohr, to make some re-adjustments to his strategy.

In the 3-5-2 formation, he used: three central defenders: "Commander -General" Leon Balogun, was at right-half back; William Troost- Ekong, alias "Rock of Gibralter", was at centre-half back and "Field Marshall" Kenneth Omeruo, was at left-half back.

He used a five-man mid-field that comprised: two strictly defensive mid-fielders: John Ogu, and Jamilu Collins. Etebo Oghenekaro, alias "Turbo Engine", was in central mid-field; Alex Iwobi, alias "the dancing Krekel", was central / offensive/ creative mid-fielder and likewise" the predaciously predacious" Kelechi Ihenacho, who now plays in mid-field. In addition to their mid-field roles, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho, also took turns to play as "shadow" centre-forward, or "false" number 9, whenever the two strikers who operated from the wings, moved down the wings and crossed the ball into the opponent's vital area, in an offensive disposition!

The striking duo, who operated from the wings were: The "Supersonic Jet-heeled", Stand-in Skipper Ahmed "Mansa" Musa and the "Adventurous" Samuel Kalu, who is fast becoming the new wing sensation of the Super Eagles, and making us forget the "Silvery, silky, flowery-skilled, magnificent and ubiquitous" Victor Moses, in a jiffy!

The Super Eagles took on the South-Africans with confidence and alacrity, right in their back yard; it was clear they had a clear-cut purpose: to get all three points! But the South-Africans, were certainly no "makkies", as they were ready to defend their honour before their country men and women. They played good football and were certainly not under the impression of the "imposing" Super Eagles of Nigeria. The South-Africans, one must confess, have come a long way, since the golden generation of the likes of: Mark Fish, Skipper Lucas Radebe, "Dr" Kumalo, Benny Mccarthy and all the other beautiful soccer players of the "Bafana-Bafana", that won the 1996 AFCON competition on home soil, for the first and only time, so far! The South- Africans are certainly an emerging force in African soccer and applying football justice and fair play, deserve to qualify alongside Nigeria, for AFCON 2019.

The Super Eagles were also a delight to watch, in their highly "modified" 3-5-2 formation, modified in the sense that it still allowed for maximal use of the wings- a typical Nigerian characteristic! One must confess that one of the reasons one admires Coach Rohr, is that he not only adapts his tactics where necessary to make his team unpredictable and, thus ,confuse his opponents, but also re-adjusts his style to make maximum allowance for the natural characteristics of his players, and, consequently, brings out the best in them! Coach Rohr's tactical flexibility and adaptability, should indeed be the envy of any soccer "connoisseur"!

The Super Eagles once had a German coach, in 1988: Coach Manfred Hoener, he experimented with the 3-5-2 formation, he applied the system strictly without making the necessary re-adjustments taking cognisance of the natural characteristics of Nigerian players. The consequences of his tactical "inflexibility" are chronicled in my book, which reference is at the end of the article!

It was an interesting match with golfs of attacking soccer continuously moving from one end of the pitch to the other. The Super Eagles' mid-field under the 3-5-2 formation, showed considerable improvement. The beautiful Super Eagles' goal that came off an uncanny wing wizardry exhibited by the" Adventurous" Samuel Kalu, was a delight to behold! The South -Africans, likewise ,answered with a quintessential equaliser that saw a brilliant South-African attacker, with a deft body swerve, take out two Nigerian defenders, and, consequently, laid bare the Super Eagles' defence, before selflessly passing to a teammate to make hay!

In conclusion, notwithstanding the rather strange decision of the refree to disallow what looked like a good Nigerian second goal, me thinks the score of 1-1, and the concomitant qualification of the Super Eagles for AFCON 2019, is fair and square!


Cyril C. Nwokeji is the author of the book: "Super Eagles of Nigeria: Pride of Africa", presently on sale on www. Amazon.com


Also at the link below, one can come into contact with a number of items, needed to support the Super Eagles at "RUSSIA 2018"!!!!!


The book "Super Eagles of Nigeria: Pride of Africa", can also be gotten through the author. One can contact the author through: [email protected] Please note in this case, payment of postage costs will be necessary

Also at the link below, one can come into contact with a number of items, needed to support the Super Eagles at "RUSSIA 2018" !!!!!