After beating the Pirates of Seychelles 3-1 in their final Group game of the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers, the Super Eagles of Nigeria will now set her sight on preparing ahead for the continents biggest diadem when the showpiece begins in June.
Here are some of the talking points from the game:
- Super Eagles struggle to find motivation
Sometimes in football you win the hard way, and sometimes you win convincingly. It’s kind-of difficult to categorize the Super Eagles victory against Seychelles, as it somewhat looked like something in-between the two.
The biggest conundrum Gernot Rohr faced was how he was going to motivate his player going into this inconsequential game against the majority of Gavin Jeanne’s squad who are only moonlighting as football players.
Contextualizing things, the Seychelles squad earn a combined average of around 9000 rupees a month. That is about $635 per month. By comparison, Nigeria forward Odion Ighalo’s $245 000 a week at Chanching Yatai in China means he could probably pay the entire Seychelles team for their time this weekend.
With that in mind, many Nigerians wouldn’t have begrudged Rohr if he had decided to field an under-strength team. However, the Franco-German didn’t take any chances, as he fielded players who were suppose to clobber the Pirates.
Surprisingly, the team went into the interval leveled, and if not for some flashes of brilliance from the likes of Henry Onyekuru and Moses Simon-who came in as a substitute, Seychelles might as well have pulled the chess nut out of the fire.
2. Alex Iwobi’s starting berth might be in jeopardy
Although, playing against Seychelles in a dead rubber game shouldn’t be a yardstick to judge a player, but judging by the reaction of the fans after he struggled to stamp his authority in the game, Gernot Rohr might be having second thoughts about the player he his trying to ease into the attacking midfield role in the absence of captain, John Obi Mikel.
The Arsenal Winger was out of sorts throughout the entirety of the game against the also-rans, as he struggled to make any meaningful contribution . He was ponderous on the ball, while he struggled to coordinate the team from the middle of the park.
Despite Rohr having a history of keeping faith with his players, he sometimes have showed a propensity to dropping players who show lackadaisical attitude in their game.
Iwobi would have to improve if he his to show Nigerian’s that he has what it takes to keep his shirt in that role as his other preferred position, which is on the wings, is already saturated with players who are looking for the slightest of opportunity to prove themselves to the coach.
3. Uzoho’s howler might just have been the final straw
Hardly does a Super Eagles game take place without the goalkeeping department not being a topic of discussion.
Unsurprisingly, Francis Uzoho was given the nod to man the post ahead of the Ikechukwu Ezenwa, despite the former having some issues with his club, Rohr still opted for the youngster.
With Nigeria up by a goal, and in control of proceedings, Uzoho rushed out of his area to punch a free-kick but failed to make contact with the ball which left Rody Melanie to dispatch his effort to the back of an empty net.
The goalkeeper’s decision gave the Pirates a goal in Asaba, as Rohr must have been scratching his head on what went wrong with his goalie. Maybe a brain freeze or lack of concentration, one thing is certain, it doesn’t allay fears of Nigerians that the position is a sorted out.
4. Onyekuru makes a claim for a spot on the wings
Since Gernot Rohr took over the reins of the Nigerian national team in 2016, he has never been shot of wingers in the team, and the roll call of them keeps increasing by the numbers.
By every standard, Henry Onyekuru is no minnow when it comes to staking a claim for a starting berth, but Rohr has always found a reason or two to excuse him from the starting eleven or from the squad completely.
He finally got his chance against Seychelles, and he took it with both hands.
After showing glimpsesof hus brilliance in the first half, he capped it up with a goal in the second after he latched on to a oass from Jamilu Collins.
With the likes of Samuel Kalu, Moses Simon, Ahmed Musa, and Samuel Chukwueze all almost assured of a seat on the plane to Egypt, Onyekuru’s performance might as well have sneaked him in into the plane.
5. Super Eagles find ‘love’ in Asaba
There were lots of reservations about Asaba hosting the Eagles, especially after the team were held to a goalless draw the last time they played there against the Cranes of Uganda.
However, the team found a different reception in the capital of Delta State.
The grass was well mowed, the the tickets were sold on time, and most importantly, the fans came out in their droves to support the team.
With Uyo gradually becoming a place the Eagles have gotten accustomed to after playing most of their qualifiers there, don’t bet against Asaba stealing their ‘bride’ from them.