Truth be told: a team that cannot win a match, more especially, against a soccer minnow, in which they had a four-goal advantage, on home soil, is no team! 

What happened to the Super Eagles of Nigeria at the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium, Benin-City? Why did they apparently go to ‘sleep’, after having a four-goal lead against their opponents? Was it a case of over-confidence, amateurism, naivety or outright childishness or what? Was the weather too hot for them, and, consequently, led to fatigue? Or was it just some sort of bad luck ? Or, rather, was nature opposed to a Super Eagles’ victory on home soil on the 13th of November 2020? 

The Super Eagles put up an enigmatic performance! They started brilliantly in the match and took an apparently unassailable four-goal lead after just thirty minutes; the Sierra-Leonians appeared ‘destined’ to be trounced, with a high score margin! With benefit of hindsight, that massive early lead proved to be the Super Eagles’ Achilles heel! As earlier stated, the lack of a subsequent business-like attitude, coupled with a tactically shrewd Sierrra-Leonian coach, who made the right tactical re-adjustments, turned out negatively for the Super Eagles, as they virtually lost hold of the match and let the Sierra-Leonians come back into the game; and, they even looked like they would nick it against the home side: the Super Eagles of Nigeria! 

Can the Super Eagles of Nigeria turn things around in the second leg, in Freetown? 

Me thinks yes, if they make the right kind of re-adjustments : 

The tactical formation used: 4-4-2, was good. As a consequence, the Super Eagles dominated the mid-field for the duration of the match. This is noteworthy since mid-field dominance is not a Super Eagles’ characteristic. 

The goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye, should be rested for the second leg. While he cannot be blamed for three of the goals he conceded, however, the psychological effect of conceding four goals in a match, may be what too much for a young man of twenty years. 

The defensive line was the team’s main Achilles heel! They let down their colleagues! 

Kevin Akpoguma, should be replaced by Ola Aina at right-back. This for the following reasons: Ola Aina defends better for the entire duration of a game; while Kevin Akpoguma, apparently, tires out. In the last match, it could be as a consequence of the hot weather, which he is not used to. Also Ola Aina overlaps better and helps give width to the attack. In other words, Ola Aina, is a natural full-back, while Kevin Akpoguma, is more of a central defender! 

Jamilu Collins, should take the left-back position. Zaidi Sanusi, who played in that position did his best and even gave the vital pass for the second goal scored by Victor Oshimen. This not withstanding, he lost concentration a number of times in the vital area that resulted in at least one of the Sierra-Leonian goals. Also Jamilu Collins overlaps better and gives better width to the attack. 

William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun, can continue their central defensive partnership; but must keep their concentration for the entire duration of the match. Leon Balogun showed more weaknesses in this regard. 

Semi Ajayi, with all due respects, should never play as a central defender for the Super Eagles. He is just not strong and flexible enough to be a central defender. His short comings in this regard resulted in two of the Sierra-Leonian goals, in the relatively short period of time he played. One is surprised Coach Rohr has not seen these deficiencies in his playing style as a defender. He showed these deficiencies in the matches he played for the Super Eagles as central defender in the post AFCON 2019 period! He should be used more as a defensive mid-fielder. And might just as well start as one of the two defensive mid-fielders in the second leg match in Freetown. 

Etebo Oghenekaro did well as defensive mid-fielder/ co-ordinator general in mid-field. He was in my considered opinion, the best Super Eagle in that match! He should start in the same position in Freetown. 

Samuel Chukwueze, who was the right-sided offensive mid-field, should keep his position in the team. He played quite well, until he was fatigued toward the end of the game, apparently, due to the hot weather. 

Joseph Aribo, did quite well until he was fatigued, apparently, due to the weather. One suggests he starts from the bench and may come in in the second half. Also Coach Rohr, may consider playing him more as an offensive mid-fielder. He played as a left-sided defensive mid-fielder. He is more of an offensive mid-fielder naturally. 

Alex Iwobi, played well until he was fatigued, apparently, due to the weather. He should start the game in Freetown, and, could be replaced by Joe Aribo, if he tires out. 

Skipper Ahmed Musa, was not at his best as supporting striker. He should start from the substitute’s bench in Freetown; and be replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho. 

One hopes Victor Oshimen recovers for the second leg match. He fought hard till he was replaced as a result of injury. He crowned a beautiful performance with a goal! 

In summary, the Super Eagles should learn one vital lesson from this match: regardless of the score line, no game is won until the blast of the final whistle of the refree! Germans are known to concentrate fully for the duration of a match. Coach Rohr, a German, should inculcate this important soccer ‘value’ to the Super Eagles players! This should serve as a very important learning moment. They should take advantage of it, the task ahead would be much more daunting from now onwards! 

In the short term, Nigerians expect a positive reaction from the Super Eagles in the return match in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on the 17th of November, 2020. 

UP SUPER EAGLES! UP NIGERIA !!!!!!!!!  By Cyril C. Nwokeji, the author of the book: “Super Eagles of Nigeria: Pride of Africa”, The book “Super Eagles of Nigeria : Pride of Africa”, can also be gotten through the author. One can contact the author through: Please note in this case, payment of postage costs will be necessary 

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