Nigerians and Ghanaians have argued about Jollof Rice for ages now. Visitors to either country soon find that if they mention having visited the other country, they’re immediately urged to try the native Jollof Rice and give a verdict as to which is better.
Unfortunately for the fans in the stadium and those that watched yesterday’s game on TV/mobile devices, the Ghana-Nigeria game was bland, lacking the spice and taste of either country’s famous Jollof Rice.
Here are a few thoughts from the game and what we think will happen going forward.
Nigerian Tactical Blunders
Nigerian Head Coach, Augustine Eguavoen, is good at his job but it’s been two straight games now that he has been tactically outwitted by his opposite number.
Against Tunisia in the AFCON round of 16, his flying wingers were shut down too easily. Yesterday, his wingers were shut down again and his only move was to have them switch wings a couple of times to little effect.
He also fumbled badly yesterday by choosing to field just two natural midfielders in a key away game.
Choosing to replace the injured Wilfred Ndidi with Bonke Innocent and leaving out a third midfielder to play Iheanacho as a supporting striker was either a naïve decision or an arrogant mistake. Either way, it did not pay off.
Wilting Before A Loud Home Crowd
In key games like this, the home support acts as a 12th player, a role the amazing Kumasi home crowd played to perfection.
From the moment the Super Eagles stepped on the Baba Yara pitch, the noise boomed down from the stands, swelling in support of the Black Stars, and heckling the Super Eagles mercilessly.
It was clear to see that some Super Eagles were overawed by the atmosphere and struggled to get into the game. Every single Nigerian fan at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium must take a page from the Ghanaians and create a similar atmosphere to support Super Eagles and intimidate the Ghanaian team.
Little Margin For Error In Abuja
Nigeria has a poor record against Ghana, yesterday was the perfect time to begin to fix that. Several Ghanaian stars were missing, including captain, Andre Ayew, but the Super Eagles could not capitalize on the absences to win the game.
This reduces the margin for error in Abuja. The Super Eagles will have home advantage and are currently the superior side. However, if things start to go awry in Abuja, if Ghana score early or the Super Eagles begin to miss chances, the pressure on the home team will increase dangerously.
A Serious Lack of Quality Between The Lines
At the AFCON tournament, Nigeria missed the services of Victor Osimhen. The lanky Napoli striker is currently at the top of his game and is one of the best forwards in Italy and Europe.
Yesterday, he was completely starved of service. Moses Simon and Samuel Chukwueze played badly and he had no service from out wide. Down the middle, Nigeria placed Kelechi Iheanacho behind him and both were starved of service as the Leicester City forward is more likely to be on the end of chances than creating them.
Having one of the best strikers in Europe and failing to create quality chances for him is a risky game to play. Eguavoen needs to either ensure he has a proper playmaker between the lines to feed his best player or he actually puts his wingers in the best position to succeed. A failure to do so could cost Nigeria a World Cup slot and the coach his job.
Thoughts On Who Starts The Next Game
Samuel Chukwueze and Moses Simon played badly last night. Both players should currently be worried about a place in the starting XI on Tuesday.
It’s still early days, but Bonke Innocent cannot replicate what Ndidi brings to the team. Eguavoen cannot afford to lose the midfield battle again and would be wise to go with a proper midfield trio in Abuja.
Preferred starting XI: Francis Uzoho. Zaidu Sanusi, Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong, Ola Aina. Joe Aribo, Oghenekaro Etebo, Frank Onyeka. Moses Simon, Victor Osimhen, Kelechi Iheanacho.
This XI has three midfielders, giving the home team a chance to dominate the midfield zone.
Since Kelechi Iheanacho is not an out-and-out winger, this formation will allow him to play as a Shadow striker without Nigeria losing their midfield integrity.
Iheanacho wide means Ola Aina will have to overlap more to maintain width on that side. The extra midfielder will allow Nigeria to deploy cover for the overlapping fullback as well.
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