Super Eagles Beware, Seychelles Just Became Dangerous!

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On a normal day, a game between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Pirates of Seychelles should not elicit discussions on win-probabilities, the outcome should be certain: a win for Nigeria, no matter where the game is played. But these days are not ‘normal’. The Nigeria national team that strolled through the World Cup qualifiers unbeaten (on the pitch) are a distant memory from the team we are seeing now. And while a loss against Seychelles is unthinkable; all the Pirates need do to scuttle Nigeria’s chances of going to another Africa Nations Cup, is escape defeat, and here are reasons that is possible…

The Super Eagles are not at their strongest at the moment, and that is not just because some players will be absent. Some will argue that the slew of withdrawals by key players, and the ‘retirement’ of Victor Moses is a fair point; but that is not the only reason. That the Eagles slightly lost their way at the Mundial may be attributed to the poor results from the pre-Word Cup friendly matches. In five of those, Nigeria won just one, drew one and lost the other three. In all, the (main team of) Super Eagles have lost five, drawn two and won just one of their last eight games. You will need to go back a long time to see a poorer run for the team; and poor runs leave any team bereft confidence.

The team that lost to South Africa, looks like the team that will play Seychelles. Yup, Nigeria played the first game of the qualifiers without Mikel Obi and Victor Moses. At that time, it didn’t seem such a big deal; until we saw the shambles on the pitch against Bafana Bafana. The team that will face the Pirates will be shorn of even more talent: Troost-Ekong, Alex Iwobi and Ola Aina are also out. It becomes worrying when we take into account that…

The Eagles don’t travel well in Nations Cup Qualifiers. Nigeria have won just four games in Nations Cup qualifiers away from home since 2006; the Eagles haven’t won any since 2014 and that win over Congo is the only one in their last seven away games in the qualifiers for that competition. Compare the statistics to the World Cup qualifiers, where the Eagles have not lost an away game in 14 years…that was the loss against Angola. So, since 2006, the Eagles have played 13 away games in ANC qualifiers, won four, lost four and drawn five. And they now face what a huge test without a leader on the pitch.

And Seychelles have nothing to lose…which means they will not be under any pressure. Just like Liberia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania before them, all they will want is earn a point against Nigeria, or steal the win and cause a massive upset if they can. They will slow the game down, and pack their defence; it will be up to the Eagles to find ways to break them down, and that may be the problem…13 goals in 13 away games in 12 years does not inspire confidence.

Nigeria can earn all three points against Seychelles, but Gernot Rohr must be spot on in team selection, astute in his substitutions, and have a superior game plan to the Pirates. The win is possible, but it has to be earned.

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