Let me ask this question again, can the Super Eagles soar in Russia?
Qualifying for the World Cup without losing a game (forget the win awarded to Algeria), the Eagles’ super performance in win against Poland, a seeded team at Russia 2018 should douse any doubts that the wind is in their sails.
Nigeria’s coach Gernot Rohr was quick to point out that the team won against a better Polish national team in Wroclaw, concluding that “there is a lot more work to be done”! I agree, but spare me time to applaud some Eagles.
The central defensive partnership of William Troost-Ekong (well done skippo!) and Leon Balogun inspires confidence ahead of the mundial. The duo kept Poland record goalscorer (51) Robert Lewandowski quiet for an hour before he was substituted.
Nineteen year old (forget It, It’s not age-grade ) Francis Uzoho deserves an applause for his commanding response to concerns raised in the goalkeeping department. Your number one?
For Victor Moses, good solo run into the box to win a penalty (dive or not irrelevant now) which he coolly converted for the only goal. Wilfred Ndidi, Joel Obi and Brain Idowu, I just mentioned you guys too.
Going back to Rohr’s post match comments, I dare say that a 4-4-2 formation wouldn’t work for Nigeria at the World Cup. The team was overrun in midfield. A three man midfield should be fine in Russia. Mikel the third? Absolutely! His presence in a 4-3-3 will provide extra cover for the defence, provide link up with the attack and free up Iwobi and Moses on the flanks of the three upfront while narrowing distance they have to cover thereby reducing fatigue. There’s still worry in the number 9 role since Odion Ighalo seemed lost in the sky against Poland! It could easily be said that Poland are one dimensional in play with Lewa the focal point, but every team has that, don’t they? (Ask Portugal of Ronaldo).
Looking ahead then, Serbia game in London on Tuesday should be a very good test since you can’t really pick out a main man to neutralize. Need I say however that they are a side full of experience, ranked 34th in the world by FIFA (18 places above Nigeria). The presence of Nemanja Matic alone in midfield complemented by Dusan Tadic should mean Eagles would have their work cut out. Serbia will play five –time champions Brazil, Switzerland and Costa Rica in Russia, while the Eagles battle Croatia, Iceland and Argentina.A wholesome change in the Eagles’ line-up on Tuesday shouldn’t be surprising. Mikel Agu, called up as replacement for substantive captain, Mikel Obi, as well as Junior Ajayi and Oghenekaro Etebo are all nest with the other Eagles in London. Whatever the outcome is against Serbia on Tuesday at The Hive, we should look ahead to the opener against Croatia at the World Cup.