Saturday 8 June 2019

/ by Colin Udoh

Norway handed Nigeria a 17th Women’s World Cup LOS on the back of three quickfire first half goals on Saturday.
Guro Reiten scored in the 17th minute as the Super Falcons failed to deal with a corner kick, and Lisa-Marie Utland made it two 17 minutes later when she flashed a fierce shot past goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi from close range.

The African champions were overwhelmed in the encounter and this showed as defender Osinachi Ohale put the ball into her own net in an attempt to steer the ball away as the Scandinavians again threatened from the left side of the Nigerian defence.

Asisat Oshoala rounded the goalkeeper late in the second half but with no support, skewed her shot into the side netting.

Here are some takeaways from the game

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Whoever told Thomas Dennerby to plump for zonal marking at cornerkicks needs to un-tell him.
It is a difficult tactical plan to execute even under the best of circumstances, and with players who have spent months coming to grips with it. Our girls simply did not look not equipped to do the thinking on the fly that comes with trying to deal with that approach and it showed in the first goal.
Because everyone was so focused on staying in their zones, no one stepped up to challenge the short corner kick. By the time they realized the danger, it was too late and a crowded box makes for some unpleasant outcomes, as it happened.
They didn’t give up anything, at least not much in the second half, but it was still touch and go. And against France, who have the tallest defender in the tournament, that would be courting disaster.
It can’t be too far fetched to imagine the French looking at the game and rubbing their hands in glee.

With that said, it is easier to list to a serial criminal’s rap sheet than the amount of things wrong with the Super Falcons play, especially in that first half.
Their passing was so tawdry, one can count how many times they completed three passes in a row on one hand.
Their touch, for the most part was about as good as Godzilla trying to control a felele ball. And they kept turning the ball over, especially in dangerous areas because they could not live with the high press from the Norwegians. When they did get forward, service to Desire Oparanozie and Asisat Oshoala was criminally inadequate. As for the crossed balls, the least said about those the better. 
Leaves one wondering what exactly Dennerby was working on all those days in training camp.
Admittedly, the basics should not be taught at national camp, but at least dealing with pressing is as much tactical as foundational. And delivering decent crossed balls should not be rocket science?
Dennerby has a lot of work to do. It is doubtful if a few days will be enough to resolve them. The good news however, must be that second half performance, which provided both positive and negative takeaways. 
On the one hand, restricting Norway to virtually nothing in 45 minutes is a good look. On the flip side, the fact that failed to create anything of note of their own is a monumental worry.

As much as the coach needs to take the blame for much of the issues that afflicted the team, the players also have to take responsibility. They committed kindergarten errors all over the park. Faith Michael was too easily beaten for the cornerkick leading to the first goal. A failure to track back and contest balls, not to mention defenders being hopelessly out of position led to the second and Tochi Oluehi’s poor clearout to the opposition saw the ball come back to her for the third goal.
The midfield of Rita Chikwelu and Ngozi Okobi practically ghosted their way through the entire game and just could not maintain possession. Michael had to be subbed off injured after her second collision with goalkeeper Oluehi. That was just horribly poor positioning and lack of communication. And her replacement, the youngster Okeke could defend, but her passing was all o er the place. Francisca Ordega towered over everyone else in effort and application. But she was a lone wolf. Dennerby has a lot of work to do to fix his squad.

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