Nigeria took another step towards a place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup as the Eagles strolled to a 3-1 victory over the Desert Warriors of Algeria. The game wasn’t a classic, but certain stars aligned for the Eagles, and made victory possible.
The managerial crisis that hit Algeria just before the qualifiers, and the spate of injuries that shredded the rank of the Fennecs just before they travelled to Uyo meant that their game plan following the draw against Cameroon, was in tatters. The Number One footballing nation in Africa looked anything but, mainly because…
Algeria were careless in defence, a carry-over from their first qualifying game. The first goal came when an Algerian defender played one-two with Victor Moses. The Nigeria forward had mishit a pass to Hicham Belkaroui, and couldn’t believe his luck when the Algerian stroked it back. 1-0 Then, the Algerians froze and watched as Mikel Obi slotted the ball past their goalkeeper, not realizing that Aissa Mandi had kept him onside. The two players brought back to steady the defence had helped sink the ship.
North African football success at both club and international level is built on the twin tower of playing possession football and scoring with swift counter attacks when opponents swarm them. Simply put: they put away the chances they create. At least most of them. It didn’t happen against Eagles. Algeria were profligate. They created gilt-edged chances, and fluffed most of them.
But the Eagles also worked for the win. Victor Moses was awesome on the day. The Chelsea man has been known to miss good chances, the stars smiled on him against Algeria. He reaped from two difficult openings. He scored the first through a sea of legs, and put away the second by threading through a tight near post.
The introduction of Etebo as the second screen in front of the defence was brilliant. We all know him to be a skilful runner and goal scorer, he put his energy to use by working tirelessly in the middle, tracking Algeria’s best and stifling them. Etebo’s hard work freed Mikel to roam, and gave confidence back to Onazi.
Alex Iwobi turned up! There were fears the Arsenal youngster, and Kelechi Iheanacho, were too young to carry the hopes of a nation. Iwobi simply went out to enjoy himself. And managed to slip in a show-boat moment or two!
The central defensive pair of Troost Ekong and Leon Balogun hardly put a foot foot wrong. And that’s a big plus. Their assured play steadied the ship when it wobbled. Long may the partnership continue!
Now we wish the qualifiers would continue with more matches next month, the SUPER Eagles would have made it a cake walk!