There is no doubt that the Super Eagles did well tactically despite the fact that they did not play well in the first half and getting a draw in the process in the first leg of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in Kumasi, Ghana.
However, there are some things to put in place before the second leg match on Tuesday at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, in order to have a smooth ride to the World Cup in Qatar in November.
Firstly, we discovered that the Super Eagles gave the Black Stars of Ghana too much respect but one cannot blame the Nigerian team because they played under serious pressure.
The coaching crew were under pressure even before they traveled hence it was seen in the players but even at that, they still gave good account of themselves by not conceding a goal.
We also noticed that the substitutions made by coach Austine Eguavoen were too early and faulty. Leaving the duo of Simon Moses and Samuel Chukwueze for the better part of the game was a blunder and making five substitutions when the team still has about 15 minutes to go was risky. What about if any of the players on the pitch is injured in the 76 minutes, that means the team will play with a man down till the end of the match especially when the team was already under serious pressure.
Our findings also discovered that the players were not shooting like their Ghanaian counterparts. In a game of that magnitude, shooting could be an option especially if it is difficult to penetrate the defence. The Ghanaians noticed that hence the shots and almost got two goals if not for the alertness and reflexes of goalkeeper Uzoho on the night. If the Eagles must win on Tuesday, then they must try shooting because the Ghanaians might want to sit back, that is, having nine defenders and one player upfront to catch the Eagles on a counter attack.
We also noticed that the final decisions or final ball by the Super Eagles players on that night was very poor especially when they get to the 18-yard box of the Ghanaians. The miss by Moses and the fantastic move by Onyekachi and final decision to quickly cross the ball when he could actually move the ball closer to the goalkeeper’s area, are some of the obvious mistakes that must be avoided in the second leg.
However, the Eagles played well but their markings were poor hence giving the Black Stars enough space to express themselves and making it look as if they were better. This is where the home-based players need to come in but since there are no players from the home league, there is need for stronger players like Etebo to start so that they can match the Ghanaians, muscle for muscle because of their physicality.
We also discovered that the present Eagles don’t have players that can take set pieces. Those taking them are not good enough hence the need for the coaches to work on somebody because games like the one played in Kumasi, Ghana, could have been won with set pieces especially free-kicks. Free kick by somebody like Jay Jay Okocha would have given Nigeria the game.
There is also nothing wrong if the coaches concentrate on penalty shoot-out in their training because a winner must emerge especially if they play a goalless draw after full game and extra time.
Meanwhile, talking about selection, it would have been better to start Simon Moses from the bench, he might just be the joker but if he must start the game, then the coaches must instruct him to stop holding onto the ball for too long, it slows down the game especially when the team is on a counter attack. Dribbling every now and then will not help the team especially when he is supposed to release the ball or cross it for other players to utilize.
Selection of players is also very important in this kind of game and this is where the coaching crew must be very careful and put away sentiment and favouritism because of the sensitive nature of the game. The selection must not be influenced by the officials of the football house, politicians because of their ambitions and even journalists.
If Eguavoen has the country at heart, he must not listen to outsider but rather select the players that can deliver the ticket. Some people have started pressuring that the captain of the team should start the match for reasons best known to them, Eguavoen should know that if Nigeria fails to qualify, they will call for his “head” and not those who pressurize him to choose their player(s).
Eguavoen should avoid playing short one or two like it was experienced in Kumasi. There is need for every player on the pitch to be active including the substitutions that would be made.
Lastly, in a game of such magnitude, you must utilize every opportunity. Chances in such matches might be few hence the need to score any opportunity that presents itself. The chance wasted by Moses was unpardonable. If he had scored the goal, the Eagles would have been in an advantage position by now and play with less pressure.
Anyway, the game is around the corner, if the coaching crew can take some of the suggestions outlined here into consideration, they will just be home and dry and start packing their baggages to Qatar.