Nigeria’s 4-0 World Cup qualifying win was as comprehensive as it was self satisfying for the Super Eagles, while potentially soul-destroying for Africa’s champions Cameroon.
Not only were the Indomitable Lions soundly beaten, the loss also saw them their hopes of reaching the World Cup in Russia next summer hanging by a thread.
Nigeria, by contrast, were purring by the end of the contest and could easily have finished with another three goals.
Here are the five hot talking points to emerge from Friday’s showdown in Uyo.
- Cameroon’s deficiencies exposed
Let’s start with Cameroon.
The Indomitable Lions, under pressure to get a result, and probably encouraged by Bafana Bafana’s win in June, attempted to leave their counter-attacking comfort zone to take the game to the Super Eagles head on. It was a big mistake.
Even in their run to the Nations Cup title, Cameroon still showed deficiencies that Hugo Broos plastered over with his overly defensive, and counter-attacking style.
Not until their penalty kick win over Senegal did even Cameroon themselves begin to believe they could win the tournament.
His centre-backs turn with all the speed and agility of fully-loaded Dangote Cement trucks, and Vincent Aboubakar has not been the most prolific in a Cameroon shirt, especially with next to no service.
Those frailties were shown up at the Confederations Cup, and then cruelly exposed by the Super Eagles, begging the question of why Broos thought it was a good idea in the first place!
His full-backs were pinned down by the marauding raids of Victor Moses and Moses Simon, and his centre-backs had so much on their plate dealing with the threat of an on-fire Odion Ighalo they didn’t even dare advance to attack corner kicks like they are wont to do.
Upfront, Aboubakar got short shrift from the duo of Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong while Christian Bassogog was hunted down all game and neutralised by Ogenyi Onazi.
- The value of experience
Gernot Rohr made five changes from the team which lost to South Africa, introducing Ighalo for Kelechi Iheanacho, John Obi Mikel for Oghenekaro Etebo, Balogun for Chidozie Awaziem, Moses for Alex Iwobi and Ikechukwu Ezenwa for Daniel Akpeyi.
All five combined for man of the match performances on a day of outstanding showings.
Where the previous team lacked direction, there were no shortage of leaders here, with Mikel as the obvious conductor of the orchestra.
Ighalo talked all game through, Mikel was constantly organizing and directing, and Balogun brooked no nonsense in the final third.
It was no surprise then that the first three goals all came from the experienced returnees, and it was to them that the day belonged.
- Rohr learning on the Job
During the opening months of his tenure, Gernot Rohr appeared to be so focused on the task of lowering the average age of the Super Eagles that he appeared to have lost sight of the immediate and overall objective of winning matches.
He was brought down to earth in the last game and now seems to have learnt the value of both old and new
“You have to have a good blend of home-based and international players,” he said later at the post-match press conference
This is not to suggest that he should give up his investment in young player development, but that that he cannot do that without winning games.
More importantly, he is learning from each game, and Nigeria are reaping the rewards.
- The Eagles’ defence continues to improve
Troost-Ekong and Balogun are collectively known as the #OyinboWall because of their light, mixed-race complexions, and both players have gleefully adopted and taken ownership of the moniker.
What they have also done is take charge of the Nigeria centre-back position.
The budding partnership between the duo on the pitch is enhanced by their great friendship off it.
Balogun plays bad, uncompromising cop to Troost-Ekong’s not so good, uncompromising cop.
Between them, they allowed Cameroon just two shots on target over 90 minutes, and none were exactly threatening.
If one or both stay fit, the Super Eagles can shift their worries to full-back where issues continue to remain.
- Nigeria still have work to do to reach Russia
This is something Nigerians may not want to hear, but it’s the truth. As Rohr said at his post-match conference: “it is not finished yet.”
Many Nigerians don’t get that, with many already claiming the Super Eagles are in Russia already.
However, should Algeria win both of their matches against Zambia, while Nigeria get complacent in their upcoming fixtures against Cameroon and the Chipolopolo, it’s not impossible that the final matchday in North Africa could yet be a winner-takes-all match.
Nigeria should enjoy Friday’s triumph fully…but must not get carried away.
NOTE: This piece was written by ace journalist Colin Udoh