Nigeria’s quest to qualify for the 2019 Africa Nations Cup in Cameroon was enhanced Saturday evening with an emphatic 4-0 win over Libya at the Akwa Ibom International Stadium, Uyo.
Newslegend.com.ng’s IZUCHUKWU OKOSI takes a cursory look at the six takeaways from the victory which takes Nigeria to the second place in Group E behind South Africa who thumped Seychelles 6-0.
- Iwobi Chief Creator
Alex Iwobi was the Eagles playmaker and was key in the team’s success on Saturday.
Iwobi’s assist for Odion Ighalo culminated in the team’s second goal as the latter latched onto a wonderful pass from the Arsenal forward.
Iwobi was the player who created the third goal – Ighalo’s hat-trick, by releasing Ahmed Musa who pulled a great cross for Ighalo to finish.
The Arsenal star also set up Jamilu Collins’s darting run which saw the ball cannon off the crossbar in the first half.
Iwobi is arguably the best replacement for John Mikel Obi in the number 10 role for Nigeria.
2. Ighalo Criticism Too Harsh
Odion Ighalo scored a treble on Saturday to silence his critics who opine that the Changchun Yatai of China striker is not a good fit for Nigeria.
The goals were his fifth, sixth and seventh senior international strikes for Nigeria and they were all great efforts.
This perceived lack of confidence in the former youth international was heightened by his unpardonable miss against Argentina at the 2018 World Cup in Russia which could have seen the Eagles edge past Lionel Messi and co and qualify for the Round of 16 stages.
Head coach Gernot Rohr stuck with his man and the striker has proven that his hitherto lack of productivity was just a phase.
Strikers feed off confidence and perhaps what Ighalo needed was arm around his shoulders and not a kick behind.
3. Shehu Is Good, Jury Is Out On Aina
Right back Shehu Abdullahi was injured in the first half of the game with a muscle complaint and consequently substituted by Ola Aina.
The injury saw the Libyan forwards led by the skillful Mohammed Anis Saltou enjoy lots of possessions (56-44 in favour of the guests in the first half) and incursions from Nigeria’s right back position.
The Torino defender, Aina, in the 24th minute of the game, was guilty of ball watching and was hapless as he was dispossessed which created palpitations at the Eagles’ back-line.
Aina, it could be recalled, had a very poor outing in Nigeria’s pre World Cup friendly against Congo DR in May and his ponderous defending has proven that he is not of the requisite class for the right back role.
Shehu Abdullahi is Nigeria’s first choice right back. Gernot Rohr should deputize with players like Bryan Idowu (Jamilu Collins looks a good talent and is also a natural left back), Musa Mohammed, Osas Okoro; and even Stephen Eze (who must have a role created for him; too good to be ignored).
Aina is not assured on the ball, he lacks the confidence, composure and swagger to be handed that position.
4. Good Debut For Collins
Paderborn of Germany left back Jamilu Collins was seldom robbed of the ball unlike his teammates on the other side. His international debut was a promising one.
The defender is a natural left back and with age on his side, could be in the team for a long time.
His promising run from the back after being released by Alex Iwobi which saw the ball come off the crossbar also underlined his attacking instincts.
The Eagles are brimming with young talents and when (hopefully not IF) the likes of Ikouwem Udoh join the ranks, the left back position will be played by exciting talents like Collins whose natural adaptability is necessary.
5. The Eagles Attacking Options
Samuel Kalu scored his first international goal for Nigeria on Saturday with a sumptuous finish.
The Bordeaux forward had before the strike wasted a few chances but the effort still showed his undoubted ability.
Henry Onyekuru worked hard prior to that goal and with the return to fitness of Moses Simon, suddenly the Eagles have a forward line with different dimensions: pace, trickery and shooting ability.
Gernot Rohr is said to be considering recalling FC Mainz of Germany striker Anthony Ujah who is dangerous in front of goal, and a few up and coming stars like Steven Odey.
The issue of goal scoring is now becoming something to watch out for. The prospect of Nigeria’s attack say in two to four years time is fearsome.
Who knows, Victor Moses may even rescind his retirement decision as well.
Shades of Nigeria’s deadly attack of the 90s and early 2000s when Rashidi Yekini, Daniel Amokachi, Samson Siasia, Victor Ikpeba, Nwankwo Kanu, Richard Owubokiri and Victor Agali scared the hell out of opposition defence!
6. Rohr Must Have Another Central Defensive Partnership
Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong are Nigeria’s central defensive partnership deployed by Gernot Rohr and were impressive on Saturday.
The pair have been distinctive but the head coach must also find another combo to back up what he already has as injuries, or need to tweak personnel may arise.
The duo of Kenneth Omeruo and Chidozie Awaziem spring to mind while Stephen Eze and Uche Agbo are quality options as well.
Rohr will do well to have this ‘positive selection headache’ at the back same way his forward options are tantalizing.