Enyeama crisis and DRC loss mask improvements in makeshift Super Eagles

Sunday 11 October 2015

/ by Colin Udoh
Oliseh's Super Eagles showed improvement despite loss to DRC

Immediately after the Super Eagles 0-2 loss to Congo DR in the first of their Belgium Tour, I posted on Twitter that they were much improved over the last two games.

Expectedly, the flak came swift and sure. Many even wondered if it was the same game they saw. Yes folks, it was the exact same.

In the first two games, the team struggled with their passing, combinations failed to come off and efforts at goal were few. This, despite scoring twice against Niger.

Last Thursday however, the passing improved. The team dominated against a difficult opponent and fashioned good looks at the opponent's goal that they were either unlucky not to put away, or saved by a goalkeeper in good form on the night.

There's an old saying that "It is never too early to start winning, but it is always too early to start losing."

Going behind early knocked some of the stuffing out of the Eagles. But they didn't buckle and crumble.

To start with, the heart had been ripped out of the back four. Stalwart Kenneth Omeruo had pulled out of the squad with injury. Godfrey Oboabona, who could have deputised, was unavailable. 

Elderson Echiejile, the mist experienced of the back four, was returning for the first time in over a year. Specialist right back Leon Balogun was drafted to centre back along with William Troost-Ekong who was making only his fourth appearance for Nigeria.

Carl Ikeme in goal is still coming to grips with international football and is still far from having the self assurance to intimidate his own defenders.

Both Congo goals came from the right channel where the inexperienced Shehu Abdullahi combined with the played out of position Balogun.

Congo had only four attempts at the Nigeria goal. Two of those went in. By the time the team settled into some sort of rhythm, the Congolese had barely anywhere to go.

There were outstanding performances from Abdullahi (despite the goals), and Echiejile.

John Mikel Obi also looked like he had found a new lease of life, although the feeling is that he was tactically all over the shop.

With Rabiu Ibrahim in the side, the shape of the team had Mikel and Onazi as the twin pivots.

Instead, Mikel was popping up all over, leaving Onazi alone with the holding responsibilities.

The major issue however, was in the final third. For all his inadvertent good work, Mikel's shooting was criminally deficient. It either lacked venom, or direction. Where it had power, it had no direction. Where it had direction, it lacked power. Like both were working in inverse proportion.

Considering how he worked himself impressively into those advanced positions, it is an area of his game he needs to sort out.

Two things that must improve subsequently, starting with Cameroon on Sunday are improved decision-making among the forward three and better, high temp pressing.

Against Congo they looked listless in possession and languid in pressing. 

Trying to blame it on the Enyeama/Oliseh crisis cuts no ice. They looked just about the same in previous games.

Oliseh will most likely rejig his back four. Efe Ambrose should come in at central defence, with Balogun returning to his right back berth.

Rabiu Ibrahim will have another crack at proving his worth in midfield along with Mikel and Onazi.

Upfront, there should be at least one change. Emenike and Ighalo didn't quite work in a 4-3-3. So one would make way for a more natural wide player. Expect to see Moses Simon in.

Ikeme, Balogun, Ambrose, Troost-Ekong, Echiejile; Mikel, Onazi, Rabiu; Musa, Emenike, Simon

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