The actual fact the Tremendous Eagles go to Praia with out their strongest performers in opposition to Liberia makes a troublesome journey that rather more daunting
Nigeria’s routine 2-0 victory over Liberia on Friday had a face solely a mom may love.
So, when Gernot Rohr gushed afterward concerning the high quality of the efficiency within the second half, it was straightforward to grasp it because the effusiveness of a mother or father celebrating the little wins.
The truth on the bottom was slightly extra pedestrian, far faraway from the platonic ultimate of excellent soccer, and fairly a chore to take a seat via.
Two bits of fast pondering from Kelechi Iheanacho within the first half ensured the Tremendous Eagles started on a robust be aware within the bid to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Nevertheless, for giant parts of the sport, Rohr’s aspect made heavy climate of asserting superiority in opposition to overmatched opponents.
The sodden nature of the pitch, beset by three days of near-constant rain, did little to assist, in fact.
On some situations, most notably early on when Moses Simon was introduced with an honest opening one-on-one with the goalkeeper, the ball discovered scant buy and caught within the muck, forcing the nonplussed Nantes winger to beat a retreat and search to recycle the ball. There have been bobbles, awkward bounces and moist sloshes aplenty on a floor at Teslim Balogun that, even on the most effective of days, is hardly the most effective carpet obtainable.
Nevertheless, past even that, there was lots to criticize: poor urgent buildings, sub-optimal spacing in attacking conditions, an absence of compactness between the strains of the workforce and an incapability to regulate the opponent throughout defensive transitions.
Had Liberia possessed higher high quality and located favour from the inept match officers, they may have made hay at varied factors through the recreation.
That they didn’t owed to their very own inefficiency, but additionally to the power of a number of Tremendous Eagles gamers to take care of a constant stage of efficiency regardless of the chaos earlier than them.
Iheanacho’s brace deservedly earned him an official ‘Man of the Match’ distinction, however behind him, Alex Iwobi tailored to the situations to provide an ingenious show, dappled with pleasant little touches and marked by nearly impeccable timing.
Wilfred Ndidi was masterful as at all times at recovering the ball whereas policing massive swathes of area, but additionally at carrying it ahead in opposition to strain, particularly within the second half.
The centre-back pairing of William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun have been near impeccable on the form of unsure footing that may typically be the undoing of even essentially the most skilled campaigner.
The previous had a wobble or two, however nothing terminal; the latter recalled a few of his finer performances advancing with the ball out of defence to unbalance the Liberian block.
Whereas it’s no shock that the workforce’s best performers could be these based mostly in the UK – the Premier League is, in any case, Europe’s highest-ranked per Uefa’s coefficient system – it however is an issue, contemplating the workforce must do with out them for the journey to Cape Verde on Tuesday.
Together with the above 4, Oghenekaro Etebo and Joe Aribo can even depart.
That leaves the Tremendous Eagles with out its most spectacular and skilled gamers, a frightening prospect certainly.
Whereas Cape Verde are a decent aspect, the actual problem that comes with going through them is much less to do with their inherent high quality and extra in affiliation with the unreal turf in Praia and the altitude. These situations will be new and uncomfortable for among the youthful gamers within the squad, unaccustomed as they’re to excelling in them.
The actual fact it was the workforce’s extra skilled heads that tailored most readily to the enjoying floor in Lagos is instructive. With nous comes the power to take setbacks on the chin, as they’ll draw on a wealth of knowledge, but additionally on the certitude of their very own fully-formed skillsets.
Even with the gutting of the squad, there’s nonetheless sufficient high quality to current a reliable aspect able to holding its personal. That a lot is plain.
What can’t be changed, nonetheless, is the equanimity and management that might be misplaced between the 2 matches: when the warmth is on in Praia and heads start to drop, reasonably than with the ability to look to Ndidi and Balogun, it’s going to fall to the debuting Harmless Bonke to instol management within the center and an impulsive pair of defenders in Kenneth Omeruo and Chidozie Awaziem to defend with quiet assuredness.
It raises the stakes and ramps up the jeopardy a lot extra.