Thursday, May 13, 2021

England vs Nigeria: five things we learned


tiamin rice

Nigeria’s German manager Gernot Rohr (C) speaks to his players on the pitch after the International friendly football match between England and Nigeria at Wembley stadium in London on June 2, 2018. England won the game 2-1. / AFP PHOTO / Ian KINGTON

After the Super Eagles 2-1 loss in a friendly match against the Three Lions of England in preparation for the World Cup in Russia, here are five thoughts on the team’s performance:

Shaky Oyinbo Wall
It was observed that the defensive pair of William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun were shaky holding their own against their “elite” attackers like we expect them to in the World Cup where they will be playing against the likes of Lionel Messi, Kun Aguero, Mandzukic and more, as they struggled to keep it clean at the back. They could not communicate with each other, too many loose passes and fidgeting at every approach of the English team.

Goalkeeping Hoodoo
The goalkeeping position of the team still poses a problem, especially in terms of the ability and competence of Deportivo’s Francis Uzhoho being the man in between the poles for the team going to the World Cup. For instance, the second goal scored by Harry Kane should have ended being at least a catch by the keeper.

Things Fell Apart, Centre Could Not Hold
Amidst the absence of Nigeria’s unarguably best player, Wilfred Ndidi, it is expected that the midfield trio which consists of the most experienced player in the team, John Obi Mikel, Ogenyi Onazi and Torino’s Joel Obi should be able to do a sane job in the heart of the midfield. But reverse is the case, as players like Dele Ali, Raheem Sterling and Eric Dier had an international game of their lives, stringing passes, running through the third of the team in and out.

Promises, and More Promises
The Super Eagles have enough arsenal to scare any team when there is cohesion. For example, we saw the team resume play in the second half with one-two passes, which put the English team under a great pressure. That eventually led to the goal scored by Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi from the rebound of Mikel’s effort that hit the woodwork.

Player Selection Headache
Another lesson learnt is that Gernot Rohr can do better in player selection heading to the World Cup. It was observed that there was a paradigm shift in the affairs of the game following the substitution of Joel Obi for John Ogu, Abdullahi Shehu for Tyrone Ebuechi, as well as Leon Balogun for Kenneth Omeruo and Onazi for Oghenekaro Etebo in the second half. Their introduction brought flair to the game; better stability in midfield, better flow of pass and a more decent defensive line.

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