Solid defence, Multi-facet attack and other lessons from Super Eagles AFCON group stage | Dailytrust

Solid defence, Multi-facet attack and other lessons from Super Eagles AFCON group stage

Super Eagles in a warm up exercise at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja
Super Eagles in a warm up exercise at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja

The Super Eagles of Nigeria navigated the backwaters of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) group stage excellently, claiming the record of the only team to win all its three matches played so far in Cameroon. This they achieved while playing the best football in the tournament, besting Egypt and effortlessly cruising to wins over Sudan and Guinea Bissau. To celebrate this achievement, we highlight three major things fans and opponents alike would have noticed so far about Coach Austin Eguavoen’s team.

Multi-facet attack

From where will the Super Eagles attack- wings or central positions? Perhaps it is through set pieces or the odd one-man mission. This conundrum has kept the Super Eagles of Nigeria’s opponents working overtime to work out a plan to not only stop Moses Simon, the best player in Cameroon so far, but to prevent Kelechi Iheanacho from exhibiting is tactical and technical intelligence. There is also the small matter of Samuel Chukwueze on the wings and Joe Aribo can also bomb into the box from the centre of the park. This has provided six goals- second to Cameroon’s seven- all by six different scorers located from attack to defence. More of the same in the knockout rounds please.

Rock solid defence
Captain of the team in the absence of Ahmed Musa, William Troost-Ekong has been a true leader in the back four for Nigeria. He organizes, blocks, shields, clears and has also scored in an all-round display in this AFCON. The Germany-born ‘oyibo’ has put his baritone voice to the national anthem and much more in putting his house in order, and others listen. Kenneth Omeruo has continued to deliver and his masterclass against Egypt in the opening game might not be matched in this tournament.
Further praise must go to coach Eguavoen who also found a way for his fullbacks to take their defensive duties first before thinking attack. The outcome is a rock-solid unit that halts everything on land and in the air, the only dent a penalty conceded during a corner kick tugging and pushing contest.

Goalkeeper dilemma

Maduka Okoye excites Nigerians no doubt; the concern is his doubt over his assured presence between the sticks. While he saved from Mohamed Salah, the ladies’ favourite dropped a couple balls in games against Egypt and Sudan, and his defence had to clear at every opportunity as they were unsure of the Sparta Rotterdam shotstopper. The command not shown by Okoye was however exhibited by Francis Uzoho in the Guinea Bissau match. Hampered by a long-term injury that saw him lose his starting berth to Okoye, the Russia 2018 World Cup breakout player was assured against Guinea Bissau but was also suspect on shots on a few occasions. This is worrisome as Nigeria will face better opposition in the knockout stage and Tunisia in the round of 16 will be a litmus test for whoever coach Eguavoen selects in goal. Perhaps try Daniel Akpeyi in the knockout rounds, go with Okoye or hand Uzoho his previous mandate? Sunday will tell.

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