For the average football fan, there is no middle ground; it is either heaven or hell.
Fans of the Super Eagles are reasonably pleased at the moment because the team coached by Gernot Rohr with four victories and two draws achieved qualification with relative ease for the 2018 World Cup.
They qualified ahead of three former African champions – Zambia, Cameroon, and Algeria. In the process they scored in every match – the 4-0 over Cameroon in September the pick of the victories.
Those performances got the team to Russia but they must improve to get beyond the round of 16, which has been the best the team has achieved in five appearances to continue to enjoy the backing of us fickle fans. There is nothing like continuous success to engender the best set of fans. So here are things we are expecting to see on Tuesday:
Solving the goalkeeping conundrum
Ikechukwu Ezenwa has been capable between the sticks for the Eagles in his last four matches since taking over from Daniel Akpeyi. In that time – over 360 minutes, the FC Ifeanyi Uba goalkeeper has conceded two goals – two penalties!
But still, Nigerians are not very confident he is the player to man the sticks in Russia so Rohr is looking for a goalkeeper. Truth be told, Ezenwa has inadequacies just like all the other goalkeepers in contention.
Currently, no player has made the position his own – this would be fought over in the next six months. But if the World Cup were to start tomorrow, Ezenwa would be in goal for the Eagles! If Rohr starts Ezenwa against Argentina, there is almost a 90% chance he will start in Russia next year, barring any drastic drop in form.
Show tactical intelligence against world-class players
The difference between the best and the average football teams is 40% the quality of players, 20% athletic ability, and 40% tactical preparation. Whilst the Eagles today cannot boast of many world-class talents in their midst, they have the strength and athleticism common to West African players but they will compete favourably against players from countries like Argentina with excellent tactical preparation. Argentina will likely have the lion share of possession on Tuesday but we will be watching the shape of the Eagles, especially out of possession – that would indeed show Rohr’s tactical preparation of his players.
Moves in the last third
Watching the Cote d’Ivoire team in their 2-0 loss to Morocco in Abidjan on Saturday showed a team bereft of quality coaching. There was no plan on how to break down the Moroccan defense even though the coach, Marc Wilmots, had over a month to prepare for the match.
Yes, football is played with instinct but the more successful teams are the ones that have received the correct communication on their opponents and ways to beat it. Team sport is more of choreography – what is practiced is put in play on match days. The better informed the Eagles’ players are, the better will be their offensive performance against Argentina on Tuesday.
The World Cup kicks off on June 13, 2018, so starting with the friendly match against Argentina on November 14 in Krasnodar gives the Eagles exactly seven months to correct the defects that manifested during the qualifiers and the ones that would show forth in their friendly matches.
While many fans would love to see a win against Argentina on Tuesday, most will be pleased if they see a definite template of how capable the Eagles will be at challenging the best in Russia next year.
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