COMMENT By Kunle Fayiga Follow on Twitter
Nigeria began life without Victor Moses - who announced his surprise retirement from the international scene last month - with a 3-0 victory over the Seychelles in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Group E qualifier on Saturday.
With the Pirates ranked a lowly 188th in the world, this tie was seen as a walk in the park for the West Africans, with Gernot Rohr expected to field a few fringe players.
The German tactician ultimately went for a very solid XI, with the only new inclusion being Samuel Kalu, who made his senior international debut.
The Super Eagles' winning margin didn't hide an unimpressive overall display, with the likes of Odion Ighalo, Kelechi Iheanacho and Ogenyi Onazi failing to truly seize the opportunity to prove critics wrong.
However, Kalu was the standout performer, playing 84 minutes of brilliant attacking football that won the hearts of fans back home watching.
The Bordeaux winger was lively from the blast of the referee’s whistle to his exit, with his pace troubling the Seychelles backline.
Indeed, his quick feet were too hot to handle, and he was fouled in the penalty area just before the hour mark which resulted in Ighalo's converted effort.
Kalu’s deft touches on the ball were a joy to behold, while his dribbling and trickery were also impressive.
The performance of Kalu in the Seychellois capital was the kind that Nigeria really needed, and which came in stark contrast to Moses's struggles at the World Cup. There was very little zeal or dynamism from the Chelsea man in Russia, and he was criticised for needlessly falling to ground, with his forward runs often aimless and ruining goalscoring chances.
At least, our winger that fell today gave us a penalty. Not like one Victor Moses that will be falling like the naira or Mango tree. #SEYNGA #AFCON2019Q — Assistant Husband Material (@R_Thobykov) September 8, 2018
That was not the same with Kalu, who showed great desire and intention with all his moves. It was not about soley trying to impress, but about making moves that would lead to meaningful chances.
This is the kind of character that could have seen the Super Eagles scale though Group D at the Mundial, but at least Kalu will have an opportunity to build on his early impact in the double-header against Libya next month.
Over the coming weeks, expect the 21-year old wideman to build on his positive early start to life with Bordeaux and to continue to settle into life in Ligue 1.
He may not have registered any goals or assists in his three top-flight games so far for the Les Girondins, but he’s made a name for himself with some scintillating showings.
He's created five goals scoring chances in 270 minutes of action so far, and these should develop into assists as he and his teammates develop a deeper understanding and a greater connection.
Moses's time with the Super Eagles, and particularly his performances during the 2013 Afcon-winning campaign, won't be forgotten, but the emergence of Kalu - who began his own international career in such style - can mean an easy transition for Eagles fans.
The new boy certainly has time on his hands as he looks to eclipse Moses's achievements in green and white.