Nigeria has never won the African Nations Championship [CHAN] and on the evidence of the barren draw against Rwanda on Monday in Tangier, that anomaly might have years to run.
The woodwork was also a Rwandan on Monday as the Eagles hit the crossbar twice and the post once but across the 90 minutes there was not a concerted effort to blow down the Rwandan barn door.
Tactical disposition must improve
The Eagles failed to find themselves with short passes in midfield that led to a broken down offense. Ifeanyi Ifeanyi and Emeka Atuloma could not knit the team together as the defenders resorted to trying to find the strikers with lofted balls that were easily read and cut out by the Rwandan defenders.
The Eagles showed they have the better players but that their tactical organisation is poor. Whether that glitch will be corrected in three days is what we must ask Coach Salisu Yusuf? Maybe, the malaise was caused by the four months break from league action but they can call on the knowledge of Gernot Rohr to help since he is in Morocco.
Okpotu may need to be rested
There are big players in football, but they earn their pay on the pitch with big performances.
Tony Okpotu is supposed to be that big player for the CHAN Eagles, but he earned zilch against Rwanda. There was no hunger, no drive, no inventiveness and it was a relief when he was taken off on 79 minutes.
His strike partner, Sunday Faleye, put in the shift and could have scored on two occasions even though Okpotu is the older and more experienced campaigner – the Golden Boot winner of the just concluded Nigeria Professional Football League – it didn’t look like it! He needs to do more to earn the tag of a big player, which won’t be achieved by his strolling through a game for 90 minutes!
More effective use of set pieces
There were at least 10 instances through which Daniel James was afforded the opportunity to launch long throw-ins into the Rwandan box – opportunities that were not used. The Eagles also had six corner kicks and almost scored from the last one in the 90th minute.
There were also some free kicks awarded just outside the Rwandan box and it was hope other than hit. The Libyans will be more technically prepared as they showed against Equatorial Guinea and the Eagles may not have as many chances to score than set pieces.
No plans to score
The goal scoring chances created by the Eagles largely came from James’ long throw-ins because, in the normal passage of play, the Eagles lost any initiative as soon as they reached the last quarter. Stats show the Eagles attempted 24 shots with just two on target even though it must be said three of those attempts hit the post.
This lack of initiative showed in the number of players that were in the Rwandan box when these chances were created. A cross from the right flank by Osas Okoro proved that when the Eagles were direct and running hard at the opponent – they can create chances. For the other parts of the match, the offensive play was pedantic and lethargic; easily read by the Rwandans and foiled.
There could be quicker reactions from the bench
It was apparent as soon as the 30th minute Okpotu was struggling to get his game on and that the Rwandans were massed at the back – looking to create goals out of breakaways.
Coach Salisu Yusuf could have pulled out one of his defensive shields and put on a winger perhaps or changed the formation to play two strikers and two wingers. He could have done anything but he waited till there were just 11 minutes on the clock before making his first change. For the team to do well in Morocco – Yusuf has to become more dynamic, ready to make changes as at when due.
The Eagles can get their campaign back on track by getting a victory over early group leaders, Libya, on Friday though it won’t be easy by any stretch but they have the players that can hurt Libya. This is wishing hem all the best.