That the Flying Eagles lost 1-0 to the German U-20 team on Thursday is itself not a disgrace but for the fact that it could all have been different if the Nigeria Football Federation’s technical committee had understood some stats and also if the coaches of the team had the tactical insights to have arranged the team for the German challenge.
A draw can be a win and vice versa
Before the Flying Eagles played Hungary in their third group match, the team handlers already knew that if we won and came second in the group, we would have to face Germany. Tactically, we should have played a draw to negate that possibility and give the team the opportunity to play Serbia [not necessarily a weaker team] because Germany are European U-19 champions.
There is the saying that to be the best, you must beat the best but the team could actually have progressed along and peaked before playing Germany or any other team in the quarterfinal. This is not saying that we would have beaten
We were always going to play on the counter attack
After watching just 20 minutes of that encounter, it became apparent that for Nigeria to have a chance against a very good Germany side, they needed a player who could take on and beat more than one opponent in midfield. The German tactic was simple – close down the Nigerians in their side of the pitch and ensure that they do not get away on the counter attack – which was the main strength of the Flying Eagles because of their swift attackers.
And with the benefit of hindsight, players like Musa Yahaya, Moses Simon and Kelechi Iheanacho would have worked better in solving that challenge but Coach Manu Garba was unable to change his formation and setup.
Tactical deficiency in using substitutions
Substitutions are the problem solvers of savvy coaches but Coach Garba elected to wait until the 47th minute [why they waited is another question] before replacing Saviour Godwin with Isaac Success, but he did not change formation from the 4-3-3 that was employed. The second change was made on 80 minutes as Kingsley Sokari was withdrawn and Chidiebere Nwakili was sent on for his first minutes in New Zealand but still the pattern of the game did not change. Why didn’t the team switch to a 4-4-2 formation? There are so many solutions that the coach did not take advantage of that let his team down.
After the 1-0 loss, Garba said, “I believe that our players learnt a lot from this game and a big lesson in general from the tournament.
“The level at U-20s is far higher than at U-17s and Germany are a very tough and highly tactical team,” he added.
The challenge for the NFF is to ensure that Nigerian Football Federation will be what to do with the coaching team but for the players, there is every possibility that three or four of them can go on to become world beaters but to get to that level, they need good advice and quality management – ingredients that the NFF must ensure.
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