Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Nigeria vs Algeria: A must win for the Super Eagles

A youthful Super Eagles has started the Russia 2018 Qualifying series impressively
Nigeria’s Super Eagles will host the Fennecs of Algeria in the next round of matches of the 2018 World Cup Qualifying series in a match that holds monumental significance to both teams in the race to Russia. On paper the North Africans are the team to beat in the group and their stalemate with Cameroun in the last round of matches will give them added impetus for a result against the Eagles in Uyo. 
The Super Eagles will, on its part, look to consolidate on a rare but valuable away win at Zambia to strengthen its place at the summit of the group.

With Algeria’s new Belgian Coach Georges Leekens keeping faith with the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani, Nabil Bentaleb and Sofiane Feghouli, Nigeria’s Gernot Rohr has equally strengthened the squad that defeated Zambia last month with Leon Balogun, Odion Ighalo, Victor Moses, John Ogu and Oghenekaro Etebo all returning, while Anderson Esiti is left out. 

On the back of progressively encouraging performances under the new coach, there is optimism that the Eagles can soar over the Fennecs; more so as the latter have an even newer coach, who will be only about 2 weeks on the job by the weekend of the encounter.
The Algerians are well-known for their fast-paced football (especially given the current composition of their team) and so will probably try to stifle Nigeria’s attack, while hoping to catch them on the counter-attack. However, Cameroun last month may have just exposed how to nullify the Algerian threat by closing down space and close-marking during their 1-1 draw. The Eagles will have to watch and learn from that match and deploy fit, fast, and most of all, disciplined personnel to prosecute the assignment successfully. 

However, concerns remain for the Nigerian side. 

Should Carl Ikeme (who currently has injury concerns) fail to recover in time for Algeria, the team will be at the mercy of FC IfeanyiUbah’s Ikechukwu Ezenwa and former junior goalkeeper, Dele Alampasu – both very talented – but neither of whom inspires the sort of confidence required for a game of this magnitude.
Ikechukwu Ezenwa may feature in goal for the Super Eagles against Algeria

The Eagles’ right back position was exposed during the last game and this lapse needs to be addressed urgently. Wilfred Ndidi struggled there last time out, Shehu Abdullahi has not totally convinced, while Musa Mohammed is still work-in-progress. With the return of Leon Balogun to centre-back, Kenneth Omeruo should start at the right back position he performed credibly while on loan to Ado Den Haag. 

However, the main issue with the midfield is the over-reliance on Mikel Obi. There does not seem to be an alternative source of creativity in midfield, should the Algerians decide to make the Nigerian captain a target for nullification. Same goes for the duo of Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi who, being rightly identified as the team’s major goal-creating and scoring threats, will most probably be marked for extinction. It is hoped that the likes of returnee Victor Moses and Ogehenkaro Etebo can come up with the goods and vary the team’s creative options.

In line with this, goals have not been very easy to come by because Odion Ighalo and Brown Ideye have yet to show the goals return required of a Super Eagles ‘Number 9’. The worrisome search therefore continues for a consistent goal-scorer worthy of the name. 

The game promises to be as difficult as it will be crucial for both teams. It is very important that the Super Eagles secures maximum points at home to one of its biggest rivals in the group. It is often an uphill task to beat a North African team away, so garnering all available points is very essential to increasing the gap at the top early on, consequently reducing pressure further down the road Russia 2018.

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