With actions across Europe and other major leagues across the globe suspended for the 2018 World qualifiers, ADEBAYO OLODAN rates the performances of Super Eagles in the 1-1 draw against Algeria in Constantine and reactions that have trailed the dead rubber match. There were also reports on a few absentees from the trip to Algeria.
Next up for the Eagles, who had earlier booked a ticket to Russia, is the international friendly match against an Argentine side without the talismanic Lionel Messi in Krasnodar, Russia, tomorrow.
Ogu reveals sacrifices to get Nigeria chance
John Ogu has revealed the sacrifices he made to position himself for his first World Cup 2018 qualifiers appearance with Nigeria.
The midfielder who featured more prominently for the Super Eagles at 2013 Confederations Cup has been on the periphery of Gernot Rohr’s squad with the likes of Wilfred Ndidi, Ogenyi Onazi and Mikel Agu ahead of him in the midfield pecking order.
Having booked their spot in Russia, the German tactician rang the change with the Hapoel Beer Sheva man handed his first start at the heart of the pack.
Nsofor nurses Russia 2018 hope
Cape Town City striker, Victor Obinna feels he’s done all he can for his country, but said he’s still holding onto the slim hope of a comeback with the Nigerian national team.
The well-travelled Nigerian, who has turned out for clubs in Italy, Germany, England and Russia, made his Super Eagles debut in 2006, and has since notched up 46 caps for his nation, scoring 11 goals.
However, the forward’s last appearance for Nigeria came in a goalless international friendly against Mexico in March 2014. And although his main focus is now on his club career in the Mother City, he has not fully closed the door on a possible national team return.
“It wouldn’t be a bad idea,” he said. “But on a personal front, I think I’ve done everything I could do for my country. Obviously, yes, it depends on my performances as well, and if I get an opportunity from now until the end of the season to go back and play for my country, it’s a plus. But my priority is totally focused on Cape Town City, to be able to achieve the objectives the team has set for itself.”
Nigeria have already booked their place at Russia 2018 with a game to spare, with Daniel Akpeyi the only regular PSL player in the current Nigerian squad.
Yet Obinna feels the South African league is strong enough to warrant attention from the national team selectors, who he hopes will once again look his way soon.
Obinna is currently nursing a hamstring injury picked up in his side’s 1-0 Absa Premiership victory over Free State Stars at the start of the month.
Idowu wants to be Eagles star for long
Russia-based defender, Brian Idowu has vowed to be a Super Eagles star for a long time to come after he joined the squad Saturday in Krasnodar ahead of the friendly against Argentina.
Idowu, whose father is Nigerian and mother half Russian, is with Russian top league side Amkar Perm and plays mostly at left-back.
The NBA basketball fan is expected to make his Eagles debut on Tuesday afternoon against Argentina.
He told the NFF official Twitter handle: “I’m happy to be here, invited to the Super Eagles, I will do my best take this chance and be with the squad for a long time.
“I will support and help the team in any way I can.
“I’m very excited because this is a great opportunity.
“I hope to bring joy and excitement to all Nigerian fans.”
Nigeria vs Argentina kicks off 5pm, Tuesday
The Tuesday’s friendly between Nigeria and Argentina will kick off by 5pm Nigerian time, just as officials confirmed skipper John Obi Mikel will return to the Eagles starting XI after he was rested for Friday’s game in Algeria.
“The game will start 7pm local time, which is 5pm in Nigeria,” Eagles spokesman Toyin Ibitoye disclosed.
The Eagles arrived Russia via chartered flight on Saturday from Algeria.
They had their first training Saturday evening at the match venue in Krasnoder.
Weather conditions are similar to the cold the team encountered in Constantine, Algeria – lowest 6-9 degrees and warmest 17-19 degrees.
Organisers say there will maximum changes of six players per team for the match.
Ola Aina: How I pocketed Mahrez
Ola Aina believes he was able to prove himself against African player of the year Riyad Mahrez when he made his full debut for Nigeria in a 2018 World Cup qualifier against Algeria on Friday.
The 21-year old played for 90 minutes in only his second game for Nigeria, and came out tops against Mahrez, as Nigeria ended their World Cup qualifying campaign without a defeat.
”It was a tough game because Algeria is not a weak side. I was up against Mahrez for the majority of the game and it was a good challenge for me because the world knows how good a player he is and for me to be able to defend as well as I did against Mahrez I was happy,” Aina told the NFF official media channel.
”It was a happy moment for me. I got my first 90 minutes for Nigeria. It was a good game, I think I played a good game.
”I was happy for the team also, I felt we did very well. I don’t think we should have drawn the game in my opinion. We did very well.
”We defended very well, we attacked very well and also passed the ball very well. We worked really hard, It was an enjoyable game.’’
How Super Eagles fared against Les Fennecs
Ikechukwu Ezenwa: The goalkeeper passed comfortably from the back, but he didn’t have any real saves to make. However, his handling was dodgy from crosses, and he was fortunate not to give away two goals. 4/10
Abdullahi Shehu: The stand-out player for the second game in a row, Shehu shutout the dangerous Yacine Brahimi, and while he did not bomb forward as usual, he still did enough to support Alex Iwobi in front of him. 7/10
Leon Balogun: The captain for the night was caught out for pace on at least two occasions, but we all know he is not the quickest. However, he did have enough in the tank to twice make the saving tackle and bail Nigeria out. 7/10
William Troost-Ekong: Complemented Balogun superbly, and was up for the foot race to cover for the other half of the Oyinbo wall. He also drove forward to join the attack. 6/10
Ola Aina: Another impressive game for the youngster in only his second international. He put Riyad Mahrez in his pocket, staying disciplined and he refused to be tempted to commit early. Mahrez’s early substitution was partly due to Aina’s excellent mastering of the Leicester City wide man. 7/10
John Ogu: He provided a tidy, nerveless screen for the back four, ventured forward when he had to and came up with a neatly struck volley to put Nigeria in front. A few late tackles almost cost him, but he gets the Man of the Match vote for that goal and his all-round competent midfield display. 8/10
Wilfred Ndidi: Combined well with Ogu to break up play, but his showing was undermined by too much errant passes. This is one of his weakest performances in the green and white jersey. It’s hard not to blame the pitch though. 6/10
Oghenekaro Etebo: Was almost non-existent for the first 45minutes but emerged reborn in the second. He planted himself into tackles and chased down lost causes. He did not offer enough support for Anthony Nwakaeme in attack. 5/10
Alex Iwobi: It wasn’t his best game by a long shot, as even he would agree. However, it was mostly down to the pitch. He did everything right, but on at least two occasions, his finishing let him down. 6/10
Kelechi Iheanacho: Doesn’t have the best of first touches on a good day, and on a poor pitch, this failing was even more brutally enhanced. He did deliver one good free kick, and had two others on target. His lack of game time at Leicester has affected his form. 5/10
Anthony Nwakaeme: It wasn’t the best of debuts for the Israel-based hit man. He was isolated and was ultimately forced to drop wide and then deep to forage. He had two half chances before being substituted, but hit both at the keeper. With better support, he could be a good asset for the Super Eagles. 5/10
Henry Onyekuru: Came on for Nwakaeme, and almost scored with his first real effort on the ball by beating his man and cutting inside before his effort was deflected out for a corner. The wide man at least showed desire and energy, but competition in his position remains fierce. 5/10
Ahmed Musa: N/A
Peak moments of Nigeria’s qualification for Russia
With the Super Eagles completing their 2018 World Cup qualification campaign, here are some of the incredible flashes.
Nigeria’s unbeaten run
Zoned alongside Cameroon, Zambia and Algeria in the group stage, many wrote off Nigeria’s chances of making it to Russia owing to the pedigree of the oppositions.
But it happened to be a walk in the park for Gernot Rohr’s men who made it to their sixth World Cup ever in amassing fashion. In six matches, they were unbeaten with four wins and two draws – scoring 12 goals and conceding just four.
Humiliation of Cameroon
The reigning African champions were cut to ribbons by Nigeria in Uyo on September 1, 2017.
Goals from Odion Ighalo, John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses and Kelechi Iheanacho powered the Super Eagles past the Indomitable Lions 4-0.
Aside the high score line, what made the victory significant was the fact that it was Nigeria’s highest winning margin against their cross-country rivals since their first meeting on April 26, 1960.
Also, the victory put the Super Eagles one leg in Russia.
Eagles pip stubborn Zambia to World Cup ticket
The Super Eagles made it through to the 2018 World Cup finals after a hard-fought win against the Chipolopolo at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium on October 7.
Alex Iwobi’s second-half goal guaranteed Nigeria’s place in Russia after Nigeria earned a 1-0 win against Zambia.
Gernot Rohr’s men were almost assured of their place in Russia owing to their three-point lead and superior goals difference. Against the Chipolopolo they confirmed their place thanks to Iwobi’s late impact.
Ogu’s wonder strike against Algeria
Though the game played at the Stade Mohamed-Hamlaoui, Constantine was a dead-rubber encounter, it provided Hapoel Be’er Sheva’s John Ogu a chance to create one of the finest moments of the qualifying series.
When it looked like the game was going to end without a goal, Ogu unleashed a left-footed missile which beat goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi.
The Desert Foxes clawed back to secure a 1-1 draw through Yacine Brahimi’s penalty that did not rub the midfielder’s goal off some shine.
DO YOU KNOW?
1. Adebayo Akinfenwa has scored 10 headed league goals in 2017, three more than any other player in England’s top four tiers.
2. Republic of Ireland have avoided defeat in all six of their World Cup 2018 qualifiers away from home, winning three and drawing the other three.
3. During 2018 World Cup qualifying, Denmark’s Christian Eriksen scored more goals (8) than any other midfielder.
4. Republic of Ireland are unbeaten in their last four internationals against Denmark (W2 D2), with those wins coming in their last two contests.
5. Only Manchester City (38) has scored more league goals in England’s top four divisions this season than Luton (35).
6. Kieffer Moore has scored more league goals (13) this season than any other player in England’s top four tiers.
7. The goalless draw against Germany was the first to be played out by England at Wembley since October 2010, when they drew 0-0 with Montenegro under Fabio Capello.
8. Four players made their England debut in the match against Germany (Pickford, Gomez, Loftus-Cheek and Abraham); the most in a single fixture since November 2012 (6 v Sweden).
9. This is the 32nd meeting between England and Germany to date, with both nations winning 13 games apiece (five draws).
10. Northern Ireland conceded in back-to-back home games for the first time since October 2015, after a run of keeping eight clean sheets in nine games.
11. Granit Xhaka (41) has completed 8 more passes in Northern Ireland’s half than the entire Green and White Army (33) have completed in Switzerland’s.