It is a few hours to the 2018 World Cup qualifying match between Nigeria and Algeria with the tactics almost set. Things would only change if any of the penciled-down players falls ill or gets injured in the warm-up.
Gernot Rohr has had 180 minutes of competitive football to assess the players at his disposal while Georges Leekens will have to do ‘trial and error’ with video evidence to arrange his Algerian team in Uyo on Saturday.
With Riyad Mahrez and Hilal Soudani available, there is every possibility that Leekens will try to stretch the Super Eagles down the flanks where they are not too assured. The duo of Elderson Echiejile and Kenneth Omeruo [if they are played on Saturday] will have to be at their best to repel the trickery and speed that the Algerians possess in these two players.
Where it becomes a tactical issue is if Gernot Rohr decides to play also with two wingers – Victor Moses and Moses Simon. Either the Eagles or the Desert Foxes would be pushed back and their defenders would have a slightly easier job or the other. If the Nigerians are on top, then Echiejile and Omeruo would relax a bit easier.
Playing in triangles
Because of the trickery that players like Mahrez and Soudani possess, the Algerians have the ability to play in neat triangles to create space. It would be the job of the defensive midfielders deployed by Rohr to ensure that they do not have it all their way. The Eagles also have players who like to play in triangles – Mikel Obi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi, three of such players. The second goal scored by the Eagles against Zambia in Ndola was as a result of this kind of play. Intricate passing between Mikel and Iheanacho with a layoff from Brown Ideye, allowed Iheanacho in on goal, which he took.
Set Play strategy
Modern football is not complete without a concise strategy for set plays – corner kicks and free kicks from whatever part of the pitch. The Foxes have Islam Slimani, who is very good with his head and a specialist free-kick taker in Mahrez – two players Rohr must have a definite plan for. The Eagles have not been especially good at corner kicks and it has been a long time since the Eagles scored directly from set pieces. Even though a short version of a corner kick led to Iheanacho scoring a blast against Tanzania
There are other tactical and technical strategies that will surely come into play on Saturday as Rohr and Leekens try to outwit one another.