Stephen Keshi’s team have reached the semifinals of the 2014 CHAN against all odds in spite of being seconds away from elimination in the hands of the impressive Moroccans before Ejike Uzoenyi’s cracking goal.
Supersport.com now carries out a brief X-ray on the performance of Nigeria’s Super Eagles at the tournament after four matches and identifies five key areas where they have shown weaknesses and strengths.
Leggy start to matches: The Super Eagles have shown at the Chan that they are indeed slow starters. They have been guilty of turning out sleepy display in the opening minutes of their games against Mali and Mozambique as well as against Morocco. They rallied back to beat the Mozambicans and the Moroccans 4-2 and 4-3 respectively but were not lucky against the Malians. The Nigerians need to show mental strength and focus from outset of their subsequent games if they want to win the Chan.
Conceding early goals: Against Mozambique, the Super Eagles conceded two goals in the space of 10 minutes. However, the game against Morocco was the height of their shambolic defending. The team had a spell of seven crazy minutes in which they shipped in three goals before clawing back to win 4-3 in dramatic style to reach the semis. The team will need to keep shape and show they have steel in the early minutes of their subsequent matches if they must progress.
Poor communication at the back: In three games against Mali, Mozambique and Morocco, Keshi’s team showed how not to defend. In the three games they left pockets of spaces in defence and allowed themselves to be overran. Little wonder the Moroccans took them apart in a seven-minute blitz in Cape Town on Saturday as the back four were in sixes and sevens. The Nigerian backline need to communicate often rather than resort to shout marches. The last man in defence, Chigozie Agbim, who is also captain of the team, sure needs to take the lead in barking out instructions to the outfield players as that has been the trait of most top goalkeepers.
Sticking to wide men: Nigeria’s strength has always been in the effective use of wingers and the Moroccan game proved it once again. The introduction of Nasarawa United attacking winger, Abubakar Aliyu Ibrahim, who can also play behind the strikers, opened up the Moroccans and forced their wing backs to retreat in the second half. It also allowed another Super Eagles winger, Ejike Uzoenyi room to roam and do the damage while full-backs, Bright Esieme and Erhun Obanor got respite from the raids by Morocco.
Never go down by three goals again: No doubt some people might say lightening shouldn’t strike twice but in football you can never rule out anything. Of course the Super Eagles never planned to go three goals behind against Morocco. Now the players and especially the coaches need to revisit that game and resolve their weaknesses ahead of the semifinal clash with either Ghana or DR Congo. Any of these prospect opponents will surely not throw away a three or two-goal lead should they have that in their possession.
Nigeria now have three days to patch up their loopholes as their next game is a semifinal clash with either one of the quarterfinal winners Ghana or DR Congo.
The semifinal match is billed to hold at the Free State Stadium, Mangaung in Bloemfontein and it will be live on your World of Champions this Wednesday.