Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Nigeria 0 - 0 Greece: Can these Eagles win?

In sharp contrast to a lacklustre display resulting in a 2 – 2 draw against Scotland a few days earlier, the Super Eagles put in a more decent shift to earn a scoreless draw against Greece (European Champions 10 years ago) in its penultimate friendly warm-up match before the world cup.

Vincent Enyeama was colossal and showed why he is one of the most important components of the team. Godfrey Oboabona was his usual effective self, as was Elderson Echiejile who later limped off. Though he did well filling in at left-back after Echiejile’s departure (he played a similar role at the 2008 Olympic games), Efe Ambrose's recovery rate is still very suspect. Kenneth Omeruo was simply a delight to watch as his influence continues to grow in the defence. Kunle Odunlami is still struggling with being played out of his natural centre-back role but did better than in the Scotland game. Joseph Yobo's introduction not only boosted his chances of reaching 100 caps, but will be a massive boost to his confidence after coming out unscathed with a clean sheet.

Ogenyi Onazi was as workaholic as ever though he luckily managed to finish the game without a booking. Mikel Obi is still being played too far from the strikers (and so the creativity problem remains in the midfield). Consequently, Osaze Odemwingie looked ineffective from having to drop too deep to pick up the balls in the centre, though he was more comfortable when he switched to a more familiar wing role on the right by which time he had run out of gas. Despite getting plaudits because of seeming guile and skill in the mould of Kanu and Adebayo, realistically, there's very little outcome for all Michael Uchebo’s showmanship, though the threat is there.

Ahmed Musa still seems better as an impact player, coming off the bench. Victor Moses was the most lively outfield player, once again buttressing my point that sometimes club performance (or lack thereof) does not determine a players output in the national team. Emmanuel Emenike was starved of decent chances but still caused problems for the opposing defence. I do not know if anybody apart from Coach Keshi does, but I still do not see what Michael Babatunde brings to the table; whatever it maybe, he has failed to show it so far. In the short time he came on, Uche Nwofor was anonymous against the more tactically disciplined Greek backline.

So going forward, there is an aura of uncertainty around a side that is going to compete at the World Cup. Winning the AFCON resulted in a larger-than-life picture of a team which has only been "comfortable" pulling off low margin victories over African teams en route World Cup qualification. This is consequent of tactical ineptitude, an unending experiment with average to mediocre players, inability to utilize set-plays, players playing out of positions, etc. And so, the team has found it difficult to win against any major opposition outside Africa.

After drawing five friendly matches, it won't be wrong to infer that the team is lacking that bit of quality or tact for the highest levelIt is hard therefore, to say how far the team can really go when the real (more competitive) thing starts at the World Cup proper. One thing is sure however, going by the players’ attitude and effort, the Super Eagles will be extremely difficult to beat.

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