The World Cup is over for Nigeria’s Super Eagles following the gallant 2-1 defeat to Argentina on Tuesday.
It was not a fifth time lucky for the Super Eagles who have lost all previous World Cup meetings against Lionel Messi and co.
Newslegend.com.ng’s IZUCHUKWU OKOSI reflects on Nigeria’s performance against Argentina and lessons learned from it…
1. Balogun Stars
The Eagles’ defense were outrun and outwitted by Argentina but Leon Balogun stood out at the back making timely interceptions and tackles.
With the Nigerian side 1-0 down, Angel Di Maria was bearing down at goal and Balogun took one for the team, bringing down the PSG man for a free-kick. That could have been a second goal against Nigeria.
2. Iheanacho’s Lost Chance
Kelechi Iheanacho was presented with a chance to pounce on a loose ball before Argentina scored and he fluffed it dithering on the ball and letting Javier Mascherano to sweep it away.
Had Iheanacho or any other Nigerian player scored from that opportunity that might have been the game changer.
3. Ref’s/VAR Questionable Officiating
Cuneyt Cakir denied Nigeria a second penalty which touched the arm of Marcos Rojo.
The Turkish referee watched the monitor for the VAR perspective and declared it ‘ball to hand’ as is usually described.
The Video Assistant Referee has come to stay as FIFA made us to understand but irregularities with decisions have cast doubts over its trustworthiness.
Musa in the 45th minute taken down by Gabriel Mercado, earlier Iheanacho fouled, admittedly not the one caught by Rojo’s boot
4. Rohr Could Have Tweaked His Line Up A Little
Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr went into this game with the same team that defeated Iceland 2-0.
The general consensus could be that a winning team is not changed.
That assumption is best suited to club football where there are a lot more games to be played and continuity especially in the defense required.
When Odion Ighalo was introduced in the second half, the difference he made was clear.
Rohr could have kept the Argentines GUESSING with few new faces starting instead of the entire starting eleven from the one that faced Iceland.
5. Nigeria’s Second Half Revival
One of the lessons learned from Nigeria’s participation at this World Cup is that the Eagles are a team that up their ante in the second half.
That glimpse was seen in the 2-1 defeat to England in one of the friendlies before heading to Russia.
The positive is that the Eagles are a team that could cause upset in Qatar 2022 if at least 60 to 70% of this team stick around by then.
Going forward, the Eagles should start in blistering fashion instead of relying on their previous lucky second half resurgence.
6. Where are the Nigerian Supporters Club?
The Saint Petersburg Stadium was a cauldron. There were so many fans of Argentina led by the one and only Diego Maradona.
Watching the match and one could mistake it to be played in Buenos Aeries.
Nigerian fans were outnumbered by the Argentines and despite the Eagles back in the game at 1-1, the South American fans never stopped roaring, singing, cheering their team.
The images of Maradona being held by someone in the stand, the legend’s trepidation and animated gestures are surely now iconic World Cup images.
Simply the Nigerian side did not get such rousing support and the “all we are saying, give us one goal” song was not loud enough!