|Sunday, October 23, 2022|
"The Super Eagles of Nigeria, have a bright future and can realise their immediate and long term ambitions, given the correct developmental environment." Cyril C. Nwokeji
n the words of a TV commentator, the Portuguese national team had an ideal sparring partner in the Super Eagles of Nigeria, going into the 2022 FIFA World cup competition : " A sparring partner that had no gloves to compete !"
The description fitted perfectly the rather tame and lame performance of the Super Eagles in the first half of the match. The Super Eagles were virtually no where, as they were out-paced, out-skilled and generally out-played /out-classed in all departments of the game! In other words, Nigeria had virtually no team standing in the first half; it was a bunch of hapless players running around from one end of the field to the other, following the pace dictated by the Portuguese, in zombie-like fashion!
The Super Eagles started the match in a 4-3-3 pattern, apparently, Coach Peseiro, having reviewed the tape of the match against Algeria, in September, decided to make some re-adjustments in mid-field, to give more opposition to the Portuguese mid-field.
He used a three-man midfield in : Wilfred Ndidi, defensive midfield; Alex Iwobi and Joe Aribo, central / offensive mid-field.
This mid-field combination of the Super Eagles, notwithstanding, were easily swept away by the rampaging Portuguese.
The Super Eagles' midfield failure, meant that the lone central striker, in the Super Eagles' formation, Terem Morfi, was marooned in an island! And, thus, was inefficient.
The Super Eagles' defence, though, essentially, experimental, could also not hold stand, as they let in two goals in the first half.
The defence consisted of : debutant Bright Osayi-Samuel, at right-back; Calvin Bassey, at left-back; Skipper William Troost-Ekong, at centre-halfback and Kevin Akpoguma, at left-half back.
Francis Uzoho was in goal.
Coach Peseiro, having seen the 'mess' of the Super Eagles' display in the first half, decided to change the team's formation to 4-4-2, in the second half; and, also, brought in Samuel Chukwueze to replace the rather 'absent' Ademola Lukman and Frank Onyeaka replaced the unusually 'colourless' Wilfred Ndidi.
These changes brought out the latent spark in the Super Eagles, as they came more into the picture and made life a bit more difficult for the Portuguese. Particularly, Samuel Chukwueze, was the greatest tormentor of the Portuguese. His incisive runs from mid-field proved more than a handful to the Portuguese! He nearly crowned a superb display with a goal in the 71st minute; when after stylishly taking out a Portuguse player, was frustrated by the highly experienced Portuguese goalkeeper, in what could easily have been Nigeria's first goal of the match!
The improved Super Eagles' performance continued, and in the 80th minute, the highly impressive debutant, Bright Osayi-Samuel, was fouled in the vital area. The resultant penalty was fluffed by the rather arrogant, selfish and somewhat indisciplined Emmanuel Denis, who flouted the coach's instructions to have Skipper William Troost-Ekong take the penalty.
That penalty loss, proved to be a negative turning point in the Super Eagles' revival efforts in the second half! As the loss apparently affected the Super Eagles psychologically and concomittantly lost concentration, in the last ten minutes of the game, to gift the Portuguese, two extra underserved goals. And lost, considering their second half display, undeservedly, by 4-0!
If that penalty had been scored, and with a concomittant 2-1 score line, the Super Eagles would have been further energised to give the Portuguese a fight in the last ten minutes of action. Who knows, they might have equalised , won the game or lost by a more respectable, 2-1 score line.
My 'beef' with Emmanuel Dennis, is not because of the penalty loss per se, as great players sometimes miss penalties; but rather by the above-mentioned attitude he displayed, after the penalty was given!
What can be done to bring the Super Eagles back to winning ways again?:
In the match against the Portuguese, Francis Uzoho did well. None of the four goals conceded could be blamed on his performance. Any goalkeeper could have conceded those goals.
Defence: It was weak in the match against the Portuguese. They were easily torn apart by long penetrating passes of the Portuguse.
The debutant : Bright Osayi-Samuel, at right-back, did well to merit another call-up. But in the next competitive match, one would prefer, Ola Aina or Chidozie Awaziem, who are more conversant with the team's playing philosophy.
Calvin Bassey, at left-back, was not 'bingo' in the match. He has apparently 'forgotten' some of the principles associated with playing as a full-back. While he overlapped well as is conventional with full-backs, he defended rather like a central defender, and, consequently, left the left flank sometimes unattended to in some of the Portuguese offensive forays. This resulted in the first goal of the Portuguese! He has apparently adapted so much to playing as a left-half back that his full-back bagage is now somewhat wanting. One suggests he should play as left-half back, in the next competitive match.
The central defenders did not have a combo in the match! Central defenders should not only be good individually, but should be able to play well together. In other words, they should have very effective combo in their activities as central defenders, to give the defence the needed solidity. This was not the case in the match. May be this was as a consequence of playing together for the first time as central defenders.
Kevin Akpoguma, also had the problem of not being very efficient with his left leg; being naturally a right-footed player. This made it difficult for him to stop the opposing attackers effectively from the left side of defence.
For the next competitive match, a left-footed central defender should man the left-half position. Or a right-footed player, who is more efficient with the left foot.
The mid-field players on display in the match are Nigeria's very best of the moment. One will want to believe they generally had an off-day.
The offensive front remains Nigeria's strongest department. Their potentials could not be unleashed because the mid-field was for the greater part of the match off-day.
In conclusion, one still has believes the Super Eagles have great potentials, and can realise their ambitions of winning the "2024 AFCON " tournament! We need to learn from the mistakes made in the friendly matches.
UP SUPER EAGLES! UP NIGERIA!!!!!!!!