Eagles' victory over Cameroun: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
NPFL By: Imo-owo Mbede | 10/09/2017
The embarrassing defeat to South Africa in the first qualifying match for the 2019 African Nations Cup was a timely blessing in disguise as it set off alarm signals which were addressed to take four points off the Camerounians in the Super Eagles next two matches. The team and the management, as well as the country’s football federation must be commended for a job well done in getting the better of our neighbours this term.More than the rivalry between the two neighbours, the annihilation of the Indomitable Lions by the Super Eagles was more appetizing due to Cameroun’s position as reigning African Champion. Unfortunately, with this “conquest” may come a tendency to complacency on the part of the Nigerians when it should spur the team on to improve further. An unsentimental scrutiny of the team will reveal that the Super Eagles team is quite good, considering that it is playing some of its best football. However, there are still some bad and even ugly sides to the Super Eagles’ team.As the euphoria of the Eagles impressive performances against the African champions begins to die down, it is instructive that the team’s performances be consolidated on. The team needs to put its head down and finish the good work next month in Uyo against the impressive Zambians.The Super Eagles are almost certain to qualify for the World Cup and so it should take a lesson from the Camerounians’ experience at the Confederations Cup last summer that success on the continent amounts to nothing at the world stage where the stakes are always a whole lot higher.The Good• Coach Gernot Rohr has been able to establish something of a winning starting eleven which, fortunately, is still very adjustable.• There is renewed confidence in a team that is getting impressive results while still coming together gradually. • There is a rich pool of very young and talented players in many positions to pick from.• The players have evidently been managed well by the Coach, to give their best and maintain healthy competition for places.• Barring any (extremely unlikely) upset, the Super Eagles remain in a very good position to qualify for the country’s sixth World Cup; needing just a point. The bad•While the team seems to have established a starting eleven in a 4-3-3 formation, there doesn’t seem to be definite back up plan for the large supporting cast on the sideline. It is not clear which and where other possible combinations would function optimally in the various departments. • There is no balance in the team. The coaches’ selection of players leaves certain positions overcrowded while other key positions lack sufficient personnel. The aging Uwa Echiejile and Mikel Obi are the only left-back and creative-offensive midfielders in the team respectively. Meanwhile, there are at least 4 right-backs and 5 defensive midfielders.• The goal keeping department is also very lean on quality. Ikechukwu Ezenwa has impressed but, along with Daniel Akpeyi, Dele Ajiboye, Emmanuel Daniel and Dele Alampasu, the team is utterly bereft of tested and experienced goalkeepers at the highest level.• There were questionable tactical decisions during both matches against Cameroun. For instance, the team seemed to revert to a defensive tactic too soon. In the second leg, this invited pressure, leading to Cameroun’s leveller.• Coach Rohr has a penchant for deploying players in roles for which they are not naturally suited. He may have come on and scored in the first leg against Cameroun, but Kelechi Iheanacho is primarily a support striker, not that power-playing, pacy striker who pins opposing defenders back and holds up play. Oghenekaro Etebo is not a natural replacement for Mikel Obi.• The team is increasingly over-reliant on Leon Balogun, Victor and Simon Moses – like it has been on team captain, Mikel Obi. This may lead to their influence waning against stronger opposition should they become marked men, or even worse when they cannot be available for selection.The ugly• The left-back position is a disaster waiting to happen. Elderson Echiejile is clearly on an irredeemable decline and it will be irresponsible to plant the country’s World Cup hopes on him by refusing to explore other options.• For a team whose midfield totally lacks composure and coordination whenever Captain Mikel Obi is absent, it is sad that Coach Rohr has refused to create for natural creative midfield players (like Abdul Ajagun, Kingsley Sokari and even Usman Mohammed).