As the Eagles welcome Malawi - barring any of those occasional monumental upsets in the game - there is little doubt that the Super Eagles will snuff out their Flames in the upcoming final group stage World Cup qualifying match.
However, after watching the team struggle to beat a very poor South African side 2 - 0 in Johannesburg, I still have my reservations about the team's overall capability, from continuous scrutiny of the team's constituents and performances; even more so as Coach Keshi has stuck with predominantly the same crop of players he took to South Africa.
Against the South Africans, while Austin Ejide assured once again that there is no worry in the goalkeeping department, the next line of defense is still a huge cause for concern. It is very worrisome that the Nigerian defense was EXTREMELY uncomfortable all night in handling an attacking line as blunt as the South Africans paraded.
For all Godfrey Oboabona's (obvious) progress, he is evidently 'work-in-progress' (I believe his Turkish move will further develop his game). Efe Ambrose's poor recovery rate downplays his brilliant forays upfront by greatly depleting the defense. Azubuike Egwuekwe's sluggishness and glaring unintelligence only further contributes to serve up a very pale defense line, especially in the absence of the budding Kenneth Omeruo.
The Confederations Cup was its first test of world-class opposition, and the defense failed woefully. With the world Cup less than a year away, I am afraid for the backline as presently constituted.
Sunday Mba scored two decisive goals at Nations Cup (in January); beyond this, he has consistently remained sub-standard, bereft of the required quality in a department as crucial to a team's overall success as the midfield. John Ogu too, has given a good account of himself, but if we have to be honest with ourselves, it is not all about stature and aggression. For all the resilience the midfield put up against Spain in the Confederations Cup (for which we are still fanning ourselves), the reality is that the team was beaten fair and square due to superior quality and tactics. The Eagles' midfield will only reach maximum potential with the infusion of more tactically gifted players. I seriously doubt that Sunday Mba (even after a season in Bastia) and John Ogu are the midfielders who will propel the Super Eagles to a World Cup semi final.
For all the space the South Africans afforded the Eagles in the middle, very little was created for the front men. More so, the Bafana Bafana ended up dominating play and possession and threatening greatly in the second half, but lost the game to horrendous finishing.
Uche Nwofor proved (what I have always been saying) that there are several uninvited players who know how to put the ball in the back of the net. Nwofor, however, is a huge POTENTIAL, and not yet the finished article; beyond his two goals, he did little else. Contemporary football requires more. Shola Amoebi may have had a poor game (everybody does sometimes), but more importantly, he realistically has not place in the Super Eagles now or in the future.
Obinna Nsofor did not impress sufficiently, but it is quite obvious that he is by far a more complete striker (given his talent, experience and versatility) than most of those Keshi has invited in the last year. I suppose he is better suited for a central striking role given his skills, aggression and shooting ability.
My major concern here is that Emmanuel Emenike has yet to be effectively replaced.