Nigeria’s Super Eagles must step up their games and win convincingly in their subsequent matches at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and not depend on edging past their opposition.

That was the message passed across by the trio of Shaun Bartlett, Laryea Kingston and coach Gavin Hunt who spoke as studio analysts on Super Sport late Wednesday night as Nigeria eased to the Round of 16 stages of the AFCON in Egypt.

Former South Africa striker and key member of the Bafana Bafana squad that won the 1996 AFCON on home soil, Bartlett, hailed the attacking talents on the Nigerian side but nonetheless expressed his reservations.

“Nigeria are a very attacking team but they find it difficult to break down the opponents,” the onetime Charlton Athletic striker noted.

“You have to be in the right positions and take your chances. Ighalo should have crossed the ball for Ahmed Musa and it would have been a simple tap in, not apologise after missing the chance,” said Bartlett, a reaction which drew laughter from other analysts.

“The Super Eagles can make changes for the Madagascar match. That is the beauty of it and I feel we’ll see the best of the Nigerian team in the knockout stages,’ Bartlett opined.

Former Black Stars star Kingston stressed that winning must come with better performances for Gernot Rohr’s team.

“In a game of football, you have to perform well before you win games. How many times are you going to perform badly and (hope to) win your games.

“They (Nigeria) need to  start winning games convincingly because as the competition progresses if you don’t perform well against difficult opponents they will punish you for that.

“Guinea were careful. They were very tactical. They knew that they can be punished by Nigeria that is why they played defensively,” Kingston stated.

Like Bartlett, Super Sport FC head coach Gavin Hunt also berated Ighalo for not laying the ball on a plate for a well placed Musa to score. 

The tactician then added: “Guinea ‘didn’t want to play’  – they didn’t want to come out so if you are facing such teams you push the ball forward a lot quicker.

“I think they (Nigeria) will improve as the tournament progresses. Sometimes it’s a mentality thing. Sometimes players go ‘who are  we playing against. But they need to sort out these things,” Hunt concluded.

Nigeria will face Madagascar in their last Group B match on Sunday evening.
By Izuchukwu Okosi

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