The thought is still euphoric – 4-0 against the Indomitable Lions and a victory the Super Eagles thoroughly merited. But they have to go again on Monday in Yaounde where any win for the Gernot Rohr team would see them become the seventh team to qualify for the 2018 Russia World Cup.
In the match on Friday, the team showed five characteristics, which if replicated on Monday would ensure another victory – maybe not as emphatic!
Rohr must continue to be unemotional
Against Cameroon last Friday, the Super Eagles manager showed his unemotional [German] side. He dropped Kelechi Iheanacho and started Ikechukwu Ezenwa ahead of Daniel Akpeyi. Those changes showed a manager, who will put his side’s victory over any personal or collective affiliations. Iheanacho has been prolific for the Eagles in recent times but his showing against South Africa emphasised the fact that in African encounters, you need strikers that can occupy the central defenders and commit them. Odion Ighalo proved that point emphatically with the way he led the Eagles line last Friday. More of the same on Monday and the Eagles will be singing Russian tunes.
Mikel should play for just one hour
MIkel Obi is still irreplaceable for the Eagles. His experience and big-game know-how will be needed on Monday. His stature in the game would also help with any refereeing shenanigans but the China-based midfielder will lose steam as he is still not yet back to full match fitness. So Rohr should be ready with a very capable replacement on the hour mark. I would recommend John Ogu for the role because of his physique and aggressiveness but that is just my advice.
Replace Moses Simon with Nwakaeme
Moses Simon was very good last Friday but Monday’s encounter will be different, which is why a debut to Anthony Nwakaeme could prove to be a winning decision. The Isreal-based forward likes to attack from the flanks – he is fast, skillful and strong – qualities to withstand the expected extra aggression from the hurting Lions today.
Don’t start Aina
Yes, the right back slot, and even the left back positions are still problematic but it would be suicidal to hand Ola Aina a debut against the Lions. Aina is a strong, skillful full back but he will not be ready for the battle that will be fought on Monday. Shehu Abdullahi was okay last Friday and with more tactical instructions should be able to hold his own for another 90 minutes.
Do not allow any goal in the first 20 minutes
Last, but not the least, no matter the intimidation from the crowd and the opponents – the Eagles must keep the back door shut for at least the first 20 minutes. Whatever tempo and momentum set by the Cameroonians will be doused with this singular act. They can keep the ball, pass it around but free kicks, corner kicks should be minimised to shut the crowd up and amp the pressure on Hugo Broos and his players.
The mathematics has become very simple after Zambia beat Algeria – beat the Lions again and the Eagles can start looking for their hotel lodgings in Putin’s land. It is possible today!