The Super Eagles of Nigeria got their World Cup qualifiers off to a flier as they recorded a lifting 2-1 victory over The Chipolopolo of Zambia in the opening game of 2016 World Cup Group B qualifiers. But while the three points are crucial, Gernot Rohr still has work to do. Here’s why…
The Super Eagles still need work, both in attack and defence. Nigeria scored two goals, largely because the Zambians were naïve in defence. The first goal was fortuitous because the ball fell kindly for Iwobi. Credit to him though, he took the chance well. But there are still kinks in that attack, a less generous team will stifle the flair players.
Carl Ikeme is one of the major reasons the Eagles have three points in that game. His many massive saves denied the Zambians “sure goals” and kept Nigeria in the tie. Rohr has one month before the game against Algeria, who will not be this generous.
On the flip side, Wilfred Ndidi looked suspect against a rampaging Ranford Kalaba. And Ogenyi Onazi (again) was a slight liability as he needlessly forayed forward, exposing the defence. Maybe it’s time to bring back John Ogu.
The midfield went on vacation several times during the game, maybe because Onazi was tactically deficient (irresponsible?). or maybe it was because Iwobi played wide more than tucked-in, and the Zambians simply out-numbered the Eagles in the middle. Whatever it was that caused the holes, Rohr must find the right balance. The Algerians are coming!
Brown Ideye is underrated. Yes, I said it. The Olympiacos man makes anyone playing alongside him look good. He made Emmanuel Emenike look good at the 2013 Nations Cup, and his work rate at Ndola took attention off Iwobi and Iheanacho. When he went off, Eagles went off the boil in attack.
Finally, the Eagles need to find a team rhythm. The game was littered with individual plays, punctured by moments of individual magic that disguised as team cohesion. Nigeria had more possession overall, but Zambia had more shots at goal (15-10) more shots on target (8-5) more dangerous attacks (43-34) and more corner kicks. The only other statistic that the Eagles had more numbers, was in fouls committed.
What all these means is that Nigeria may have won the Battle of Ndola, but the war of World Cup qualification is yet to be won. The Algerians are coming!