Sidekick: Russia 2018: 4 Lessons from Super Eagles’ exit


With Adebayo Olodan

24 hours after, I am yet to come to terms with Super Eagles’ 1-2 loss to Argentina in a match we could have won on a platter of gold.

It is even more painful when you consider that the team was four minutes away from securing Round of 16 qualification until Manchester United utility defender, Marcos Rojo scored the winner from a cross into the box.

Following the premature exit of the Super Eagles from the 2018 World Cup, here are five lessons from Russia;

Eagles showed much respect to Argentina

The Super Eagles did themselves in by showing so much respect to their opponent in the agonising loss to the Argentines. Aside the fact that the Super Eagles are a more youthful side compared to their opponents who are mostly in their 30s, the Argentine side in Russia is undoubtedly the weakest we have seen in many years at a major tournament.

On the night, while Coach Gernot Rohr retained his starting line-up and 3-5-2 formation against Iceland, Jorge Sampaoli busted out his third different shape, this time a 4-4-2 with Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain as his front men.

On the night, the 3-5-2 formation is expected to enjoy natural advantage over 4-4-2 due to a spare man at the back and in midfield. The formation was well set-up for the Super Eagles to be brave and press the error-prone Argentina defence into making mistakes.

Oghenekaro Etebo was to take on the ageing Javier Mascherano, Wilfred Ndidi to battle Sevilla’s Ever Banega while the duo of Kelechi Iheanacho and Ahmed Musa were meant to cut off the passing lines from centre backs to full-backs. Instead, our players weirdly sat deep despite the obvious advantages and they rarely threatened or attack for the larger portion of the match.

 Messi and his cohorts were given the time and space in the middle of the pack and they worked the ball into the channels on the outside of the midfield three as the Eagles collapsed into 5-3-2 formation.

How did we believe prediction of a pig

Giving the unimpressive results recorded in the international friendly matches where the Super Eagles struggled to get results, many Nigerians had given up on the team with several others predicting a premature exit.

However, over 170million Nigerians descended so low by opting to accept the prediction of a ‘Psychic pig’ which claimed that Nigeria, Belgium, Argentina and Uruguay are to play in the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup. The pig however refused to commit itself further on whether the Eagles will win the World Cup.

Based on the prediction, many Nigerians opted to follow the Super Eagles religiously with some coughing out as much as N41,000 to pick up a replica of the team’s jersey.

Surprisingly, after three matches, the Super Eagles could only amass three points which was not enough to guarantee them a Round of 16 ticket not to mention going as far as the semi-final.

Already, Nigerians are calling for the head of the pig and the owner will do well by not allowing any citizen of this country move anywhere close to the animal.

Gernot Rohr is tactically deficient   

Before his arrival, many football aficionados in the country have turned their attention away from the Super Eagles, however Rohr’s arrival change that hatred as the team played one of the best brands of football in recent years.

Many did not believe that the Eagles will secure the solitary ticket in a group that consists of Algeria, Zambia and Cameroun. The Eagles soon raised hope of Nigerians by outplaying their opponents at home and on the road.

However watching events in Russia closely, it is apparent our gaffer, Rohr is tactically deficient and may not have the knowledge and experience to manage a team at the World Cup.

Unlike a coach like Jose Mourinho who can substitute a player in the first 15 minutes of a match if such player may cost his team mate, Rohr consistently delayed his substitution until the last five minutes when such change may not have an impact. Even when he brings on a player, his substitutions are mostly wrong and even if he gets it right, you hardly notice if the right instruction was passed to such player.

In our last match against Argentina, at a time Sampaoli introduced two more strikers to make his attackers four, Rohr failed to respond by bring on defensive minded players or a player that could capitalized on the holes at the back of the Argentine defence. A player like John Ogu, Tyronne Ebuehi or Chidozie Awaziem should have been introduced to make the Eagles’ defence watertight.

NFF, our coaches must ban invitation of China-based players

Though Odion Ighalo was more willing to drop deep and receive the ball to his feet after his introduction in the second half, he was however guilty of blowing two huge chances that could have guarantee us victory against the Argentines. Ighalo before his transfer to China appeared to be sharper than his current state and it is imperative for the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and our coaches to henceforth place a ban on invitation of players based in the Asian country to our senior national team. Another China-based player, John Obi Mikel failed to impact positively on the team as the skipper. Many will recollect how another China-based striker, Yakubu Aiyegbeni failed to score from a yard out with the goalkeeper already displaced.

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