Famously, Mike Tyson has said everyone has a plan until you are hit in the face. Whatever plan the Super Eagles have for Tuesday must be one that negates what the Black Stars have. The first leg ended 0-0 and while the Eagles hold a slight advantage because of home turf, there is the threat of the away goal.
An indisputable fact from the first leg is the Eagles have the better players and more depth on the bench but the Black Stars have passion and rivalry goading them on to believe they can cause an upset on Tuesday.
Coach Augustine Eguavoen replaced the injured Wilfred Ndidi with Innocent Bonke, but that decision did not look to have worked a treat.
This is not slating Bonke’s talent, but the task dwarfed the FC Lorient midfielder. He had too many misplaced passes and there was no coordination in his pressing game. It is also hard to remember a time when Bonke broke up an attack with a tackle or interception.
Coach Eguavoen has the benefit of training and talking to the players at his disposal, and it must be said that there is a lot more that goes into preparing a match than just the training performances. Will the Eagles have been better served by starting either Frank Onyeka, who came on as a substitute, or Shehu Abdullahi?
The second leg will be one where the Eagles have to guard against counterattacks from the Black Stars. The position of the defensive midfielder should be given to a smart, savvy, and very mobile player within the squad.
The dodgy defending from William Troost-Ekong was a bother to most Nigerian fans on Friday. Every time they lobbed a ball in Ekong’s direction or a Ghanaian attempted to take on the Watford defender-the action raised the blood pressure and heart palpitation of many fans.
The essence of being the captain of the team may have been the point that swayed his selection, but if the de facto captain, Ahmed Musa, can be constrained to the bench, Ekong can also be rested.
Maybe it is the experience that Ekong brings to the team, but Leon Balogun showed he was the more experienced and a steadier hand in central defence.
The biggest tactical question for Coach Eguavoen is how was it possible that Kelechi Iheanacho played the complete match last Friday?
The Leicester City forward lost possession 18 times [joint most] in the game against the Black Stars and made just one key pass. He also vacated the midfield position many times, wearying Joe Aribo and Bonke.
Whilst many will agree with his goal-scoring pedigree for the team, there is also the fact that the Eagles carried Iheanacho for that first leg. For the second leg, all 11 Super Eagles players chosen must give 100 per cent and more to beat the Black Stars.
Coach Eguavoen said in his post-match conference that the Eagles travelled to Kumasi to win the first leg, but the evidence does not support that assertion.
There was never a time during Friday’s encounter that the Eagles had over three players in the Ghanaian box, apart from when the team had corner kicks.
If the Eagles will score, and more times than the Black Stars on Tuesday, Victor Osimhen cannot be the lone ranger in the Ghanaian box. This does not mean the team should flood forward but, in offensive forays, the Eagles must push more players into scoring positions in the Ghanaian box.
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