There have been two lackadaisical performances from the Super Eagles in their last two friendly games. While Gernot Rohr is not necessarily worried by the results, he will be agitated concerning his team’s cohesion and composition just 10 days to that opening encounter against Croatia.
The last friendly on Wednesday against the 45th-ranked Czech Republic would afford him the opportunity to see whether the mistakes seen are corrected or being corrected.
Not having the best tackler in the top five European leagues will surely take something away and many Nigerian fans are just waiting to see if Wilfred Ndidi will be fit before that opening game on June 16. When he went off injured in the 51st minute against Crystal Palace on April 28, many feared the worst but he has come, gradually in the last three weeks and if he is indeed physically fit should appear against the Czech Republic.
The last game against England saw a Super Eagles midfield that could not string together three consecutive passes. Against the Czechs, who were thrashed 4-0 by Australia last Friday, Rohr will look for a more cohesive unit – one that will keep possession and bring the attackers into play. Will he drop Ogenyi Onazi and Joel Obi after their calamitous display? Or will he give them another chance to redeem their images? Or will he start Oghenekaro Etebo and John Ogu behind Mikel Obi? All these permutations need testing on Wednesday.
Create more scoring chances
The second half against England was a much-improved one over the matches against the Congo DR, Serbia, and Poland – matches in which the Eagles struggled to create any meaningful scoring chances. Against the Three Lions, the Eagles had five shots – two wide and got two corner kicks. Against a side, whose players are thinking of their holidays, the Eagles should create more.
Head to head
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From back to front last Saturday, the Eagles were shambolic. No player could be excused from the performance of that first 45 minutes. The central defenders showed no composure; the full backs were stationary [Abdullahi Shehu is fasting] while the attackers watched from afar and did not get involved. Rohr needs all 11 players chosen for the friendly to play for the team. Onazi had insinuated that some players did not run enough [give enough] against England – that must change.
Starting With Enough Tempo
One trait that has been clear since Rohr took over has been a malaise to the team’s starting tempo. They are so relaxed and find it hard to match the tempo of their opponents. It was apparent against Argentina, in which we conceded two goals in the first 36 minutes. It was the same scenario against Poland, a match the Poles were desperately unlucky to lose. That repeated itself against Congo DR, even though the Eagles scored first and were exacerbated against England, in which the team again conceded two goals in the first 40 minutes. The Eagles must be primed to take off as soon as the referee blows for the start of their games.
While not much can or should be read into the result from friendly matches, glimpses of their real character shine through. The Eagles are second half experts having scored thrice against Argentina last November in the second half, their goal against Poland and their goal against England last Saturday. Croatia, Iceland, and Argentina will have taken note, but it is left for Rohr and his technical team to prepare his team to confound his opponents. Time is running out!
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