WITH ADEBAYO OLODAN
After finding themselves in an uncomfortable third position after two matches, the Super Eagles will next Saturday, October 13, have the opportunity of at least climbing a step further as they host Libya in a 2019 African Nations Cup qualifier.
The match which is scheduled to take place at Akwa Ibom International Stadium, Uyo is a must-win encounter for the Eagles before they will take a trip to Sfax, Tunisia, for the return leg at the Stade Taieb Mhiri Stadium, on Tuesday. Only a victory in both legs can guarantee Gernot Rohr’s team a chance of making the Nations Cup after the lads missed out on the last two editions of the competition.
The Libyans have proven that they are no bad travellers after securing a goalless draw in their last match against South Africa hence the Super Eagles must approach this match with all the seriousness it deserves.
For the Eagles to bag six points in the double header qualifier against the North Africans, first the players especially the foreign-based must report to camp early. The practice of players strolling into camp on the eve of matches and picking up shirts in the starting line-up should not be allowed this time. Only those who arrive camp early, do well in the training and are fit should be allowed to make the team on match days.
Also, it is important that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) make the right arrangement for the players and officials in order to make their preparation returning a memorable one.
On the match days, Rohr must get his starting Xl and tactics right. He must devise means of unlocking to unlock the defence of the North African side as they normally ‘pack the bus’.
Playing a team that is defensive and highly disciplined at the back could be very frustrating especially for an inexperienced opposing side.
The Super Eagles will need to throw everything at the Libyans even if we have to win by the odd goal in Uyo on Saturday. Securing the three points at home will help the mission of the Eagles to qualify for the Nations Cup as the Mediterranean Knights are likely to play an offensive game at the 18,000 capacity stadium in Tunisia on October 16.
In both legs, the Super Eagles must avoid making mistakes at the back while the attackers must put on their goal scoring boots especially with sublime final balls expected from the midfielders.
In goal, Francis Uzoho is likely to continue with Daniel Akpeyi and Ikechukwu Ezenwa failing to convince the coach to hand them the gloves in competitive matches.
Also, Shehu Abdullahi and Rotherham United’s Semiu Ajayi will battle for the right-back position and on the other side, Bryan ldowu should take the spot while Rohr continues to search for a competent alternative. With William Troost-Ekong back from injury and already playing for his Series A club, he should partner Leon Balogun who has found playing time limited in English football.
In the middle of the pack, Wilfred Ndidi is the ultimate choice and should be partnered by the duo of John Ogu and Oghenekaro Etebo with skipper John Obi Mikel left out of the squad yet again.
Upfront, Jude Odion lghalo should be supported by Alex Iwobi and the most consistent Super Eagles player at the moment, Ahmed Musa, on both flanks.
Should their be need to inject fresh legs in attack, Moses Simon and Henry Onyekuru should be first off the substitutes’ bench.
With the right attitude and approach, l expect the Super Eagles to shave both legs and subsequently move to second or possibly first position.
Meanwhile, it must be said that Rohr may have disappointed several football enthusiasts in the country by inviting Chidozie Awaziem and Kenneth Omeruo despite remaining inactive at FC Porto and Leganes respectively. Also, it is high time the gaffer sought a replacement goalkeeper for the uninspiring South Africa-based Akpeyi.
Finally, let’s hope the invited players arrive camp in the right shape and with the right attitude.