Nigeria have played their first World Cup match of Russia 2018 and it was a 2-0 defeat against Croatia. IZUCHUKWU OKOSI presents five things learned from this match…
- Eagles Defensive Lapses Continue
Prior to the start of the World Cup the talk has been on how the Super Eagles can defend set pieces of the opposition.
Well, it seem there has been no lessons learned by the team as Croatia were gifted acres of space in the Nigerian penalty area time and time again.
Oghenekaro Etebo was unfortunate to have conceded the own goal for Croatia’s first goal but central defensive pair of Leon Balogun and William Troost Ekong were not marking any of the forwards.
Andrej Kramaric’s header after Etebo own goal could have made it second goal for the Europeans while Ante Rebic also had a good chance in the 58th minute too but saw his shot miss target.
Any such lapses will be punished in the two remaining matches against Iceland and Argentina and it is ominous now that this World Cup may not after all be Nigeria’s to dream about.
- High Pressing From Croatia
Nigeria head coach Gernot Rohr could have read the writing on the wall early in the game.
Keen to stem the runs of Nigeria’s pacy forwards, the Croats applied the pressure early on and went a bit physical on the West Africans.
Victor Moses were fouled a few times just as Odion Ighalo before he was substituted off. In fact the first battle in the match was between Dejan Lovren and the Changchun Yatai striker who clattered into the Nigerian as both went for an aerial contest within the first two minutes. That ‘negative’ tactic worked perfectly for Croatia throughout the entirety of the match.
- Ekong’s Error Was The Back Breaker
William Troost Ekong’s folly of holding Mario Mandzukic for Modric’s penalty goal was the turning point in the game.
The defender ought to know that such foul will not go unpunished with 33 cameras covering every match, eight of them responsible for playbacks and slow motions.
Had it remained at 1-0 at that point and with the introduction of Ahmed Musa and Simeon Nwankwo in the second half, the pendulum could have swung Nigeria’s way as both players brought some urgency with their introduction.
- Blunt Eagles Attack
The Nigerian side had less than five clear cut opportunities in the game while Croatia launched attacks after attacks in their penalty box.
The Eagles forward line was simply blunt, the team’s first real chance to score came in the 58th min, a header by Odion Ighalo that goalkeeper Damijel Subasic easily gathered.
The supply to the Changchun Yatai striker was inadequate. Perhaps Rohr could have paired Nwankwo and Ighalo together.
- Slow Starters, Early Exit at World Cup
Nigeria came from behind to defeat Argentina 4-2 in November in their international friendly and were better in the second half versus England in Wembley.
But teams do not bounce back to win every matchday and it was explicitly seen on Saturday.
Rohr’s team must start better in subsequent games otherwise it is goodbye to Russia 2018!