It was a pleasant surprise for most Nigerian fans last Saturday when the Super Eagles achieved a 4-0 win over the Desert Knights of Libya in the third match of their Group E Nations Cup qualifier. After Libya held South Africa’s Bafana Bafana to a 0-0 result last month, most people expected this match to prove a hard nut to crack.
The win on Saturday – the first in the doubleheader against the Desert Knights of Libya – thus presents the perfect opportunities to reel in both Libya and South Africa.
Though South Africa beat Seychelles 6-0, the Eagles kept in touch with the win; and another win on Tuesday would cement their standing behind South Africa with both teams clashing on November 16, 2018.
First, the Eagles need to finish the job against the Libyans on Tuesday; and here are the five things they need to claim the victory.
Play with the arrogance on view last Saturday
When you have players like Alex Iwobi, Samuel Kalu and Oghenekaro Etebo, then there is arrogance on the ball and in their play. For a team that was supposedly conservative over the first months of Gernot Rohr’s reign – it is a welcome development. Kalu’s 90th-minute goal encapsulated that arrogance. Though the Libyans would believe their showing did not align with the scoreline, it was in keeping the opponent at arm’s length and showing who is the boss. If the team shows this arrogance on Tuesday in Sfax, they will get all three points.
Ighalo must continue to challenge himself
It was a redemption of sorts on Saturday in Uyo for Odion Ighalo as he joined a stellar list of players to score a hat-trick for the Super Eagles. A scorer of goals in the Chinese Super League – Ighalo had scored just five times for the Eagles in 23 appearances with many football fans holding him responsible for the Eagles’ ouster from the 2018 World Cup. Two glaring misses against Argentina led to calls for his replacement. Many analysts suggested his replacement with Isaac Success of Watford or Henry Onyekuru of Turkish club Galatasaray. But thankfully, Rohr continued to see the qualities and finally, the goals flowed. If Ighalo mirrors this challenge on Tuesday in Sfax, the Eagles will reap the benefits.
Current Form: Nigeria [W-W-L-W-L]; Libya [L-D-L-L-W]
Head to head
11/10/04 LGC Nigeria 2 – 1 Libya
17/08/05 FRI Libya 0 – 1 Nigeria
19/01/18 CHAN Libya 0 – 1 Nigeria
13/10/18 ANQ Nigeria 4 – 0 Libya
Eagles must keep the ball much better
The Eagles scored early in Uyo but did not keep the ball any better until the early part of the second half when Ighalo scored the second goal. In Sfax, they will be under more pressure from the Libyans and to silence the crowd, in what is actually a neutral venue, the players must ensure they minimise the stray passes that were a feature of Saturday’s victory.
Iwobi as the No.10 must get on the ball
For 20 minutes last Saturday, Alex Iwobi looked a misfit in the No.10 role. Maybe, it was nerves or the building chemistry between the new players and Iwobi in his new role. Immediately he started getting on the ball, the Eagles looked assured and more dangerous. This has to happen from the start in Sfax on Tuesday.
Uzoho must prove again he is a shot stopper
Francis Uzoho is still under probation from Nigerian football fans though the glimpses that he is a worthy Eagles’ custodian continues to manifest. His one-handed save from Mohamed Abdussalam’s header in the 12th minute proved his improvement. Another clean sheet in Sfax would go a long way in convincing Nigerians that he is the real deal.
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