The first leg on Friday saw the Sihlangu Semnikati of Swaziland defending as if a point was what was to be earned but in a two-legged, goals are what matters.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles did not score the precious away goal [not for want of trying] while the Swazis earned a clean sheet that could prove advantageous on Tuesday evening in Port Harcourt.
But Nigerian fans have told the Sunday Oliseh-led team that they will not take any excuses. All that matters is that the Eagles beat their opponents – the score line does not matter but the victory matters!
What we noticed in the first leg was that the Swazis sat deep and played on the counter, it will not be different today – they are even going to sit deeper and wait it out for penalty kicks so the Eagles have to:
1) Start very fast
There will not be any second to waste and the coach must tell his boys to charge at their opponents immediately the referee blows to start proceedings. It must be full blast with tackles thrown in as if the game will be played for 30 minutes.
2) Use Iheanacho behind Ighalo
For teams that sit deep, the most important weapon to use is the pass behind the central defenders. Kelechi Iheanacho has shown over time that he has an eye for the last pass and could be very deceptive with his movement.
And in Odion Ighalo, the Eagles have a box predator, who knows where the goal is. If he gets good service, he will score goals this afternoon.
3) Full-backs must press high
There will be moments to defend but the Swazis do not boast of fast wingers – their main threat is through the middle in captain Thulani Tsabedze. So Oliseh will best instruct Shehu Abdullahi and Elderson Echiejile, to push
high up the pitch, while the main defensive midfielder sits between the two central defenders.
In this way, when attacking the team will be set up in a 3-4-3 formation, which means there will be more bodies in the attacking third for the Eagles and the probability to score thus increases.
4) Set-pieces will be vital
Even in the first leg, the Eagles had more corner kicks than the home side – it will be the same on Tuesday and with more frequency so the Eagles must be prepared for these and must be primed to take the greatest advantage
from these positions.
5) Use our home advantage*
The Swazi’s home advantage was their artificial turf – a situation that probably led to the average performance from Mikel Obi [he has a troublesome knee that hates artificial surfaces] but on the lush [and wet] pitch at the Adokiye Amiesiemaka pitch, the visitors will be a bit tentative because they are not used to the situation.
The Eagles must fall, roll on the floor and push the centre referee into making decisions that will favour them and with the crowd’s heckling – they will get more of the 50/50 decisions to go their way.
But in all of these, the players must show the passion and the hunger that they want victory on the day. It is not a day to shirk responsibility or to blame your mate – it is a day of concerted effort to get the required victory. We wish them the best of luck!