Super Eagles: Is the Cup Half-full or Half-empty?

eaglesThe Super Eagles of Nigeria followed in the footsteps of the Senegalese Lions as they played out a 1-1 draw with the Selecao of Brazil at the National Stadium of Singapore on Sunday. The Nigerians, minus the self-destruct button they are wont to press when a game against ‘illustrious opponents’ like this is winding down, held on despite late pressure. The question now is, Is the (Super Eagles) Cup half full or half empty?

In September 2016, following the win over Tanzania, in ERR: The Early Rohr Report, we wrote:

The attack: We will ignore the defence because there was nothing much to defend, Tanzania were too busy ‘minding house’ to pose any threat. But the attack was a study if you were looking to be amused: individual play, misplaced passes, mishit shots, players colliding with each other, confusion about roles…name it, it was in that game. And that has been the issue with the Super Eagles for a while; uncoordinated attacks and chances not taken has been the bane of this team, from the time of Samson Siasia, to the latter days of Keshi. Sunday Oliseh didn’t solve the problem. Gernot Rohr seem to have inherited it. Throwing ‘fire power’ at the problem will not solve it. It requires thinking and decisive, fearless action.

That problem seems to have greatly reduced in the last two friendly games against Ukraine and Brazil. The Eagles are playing better going forward, and they tore through the defense of Ukraine and Brazil with ease. But, they still need to take their chances.

However, following the game against Ukraine in The Next Step for the Super Eagles, we made this observation:

The next thing the Super Eagles need to do, is improve on halftime/second meeting performances. While this is (just) a friendly game, the ‘collapse’ of the team in the second half is consistent with a (Nigerian) pattern that must end. The tendency is for our national teams to look the worse off when coming off a break. The Eagles looked to have passed that test when the second half kicked off in Ukraine, but alas…

Again, the team that went in at half time wasn’t the same that returned for the second period, and within four minutes of resumption, the Brazilians found the equalizer, and had the upper hand for the rest of the game. But we will never know if either could have found a winner, had this been a must-win game for either: we can only speculate. Gernot Rohr must find a way to wean this out of the team.

What the Eagles did well against Brazil though, is that the defenders kept their nerves in the face of Brazilian onslaught. Unlike in the game against Tanzania where “there was nothing much to defend”, and the one against Ukraine where they conceded two goals in two minutes, the defenders held their ground against a desperate Brazilian team that wanted a win. Tite, the coach of the South American Champions, changed his attack and almost the whole of his midfield to no little effect.

While a draw against serial World Cup Winners cannot be sniffed at, it must still be noted that the bench didn’t make any change (apart from the forced Uzoho withdrawal) until the 74th minute. The purpose of friendlies are usually many: give the team confidence, and take a look at  new players: we always seem to be looking to avoid defeat. Still, well done to Rohr and the Super Eagles.



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