The Super Eagles played their first match of 2020 on Friday, October 9th against Algeria in Austria. Before Super Eagles fans get mad over the result of this game, we must realize that the Super Eagles coach invited 10 new players to camp due to the absence of Osimhen, Ndidi, Etebo, and Aribo. Since this is the first time these players are together, one expects that it will take some time for them to play well as a team. We’ve seen this with England, Germany, Netherlands and even Spain that are playing together for the first time in a year due to COVID 19.
For these two friendlies, let’s not get worried about the result, but rather focus on understanding what Rohr might be trying to do for next month’s qualifiers. In this game, I thought Algeria were very fast in the early minutes, and Nigeria couldn’t keep up with their pace in the opening 10 minutes. This resulted in the early goal against the Super Eagles. Algeria lined up a 4-3-3 system that had Riyad Mahrez roaming around in midfield instead of his usual wing position. Said Benhrama did the same. Having their two most tricky and creative players in midfield gave Nigeria problems in the first half as they played with a front 5 thus putting pressure on Frank Onyeka and Semi Ajayi in midfield.
So instead of playing Rohr’s usual 4-2-3-1 formation, the Eagles reverted to a 4-3-2-1/ 4-5-1 just to match their front 5. Towards the end of the half, Nigeria started moving the ball more quickly, Iwobi and Chukwueze found a lot of space on the counter. Iwobi was one of the best players in the first half, and should have scored. Chukwueze and Kalu looked a bit rusty. They lacked the clinical edge to run at Algeria’s fullbacks and score. Sansui and Ebuehi were excellent going forward, making the pitch wider, and creating overloads on the flanks.
For the first time in a long while, the Super Eagles played with fullbacks who can go up and down the pitch, and provide an outlet on both sides. The Eagles were no longer one dimensional meaning all our attacks coming from one side because the other side doesn’t have enough quality. This always made it easier for teams to defend against the Super Eagles. Paul Onauchu was poor in attack and didn’t offer much in the game. Balogun and Troost-Eking both looked shaky at times as Center Backs. Iheanacho and Tijani impressed when they came on. The Super Eagles were the better team in the second half and deserved to score at least 2 goals.
Algeria mainly played on the counter as the Eagles pushed more players forward looking for an equalizer. Despite the early goal, Algeria did not look as good as the team that beat the Super Eagles at AFCON in the semi final last year.
Again, let’s not get worried. These two friendlies should be seen as warm up matches before the crucial AFCON qualifiers next month. The games should be used to work on the fitness and sharpness of the players as well as build team chemistry. Rohr has done well to invite 10 new players to camp. For now the Super Eagles remain work in progress.
- Ikem Aginam is a student of St.Joseph Catholic High School, Ottawa Canada. He is a fan of the Super Eagles of Nigeria.