By Babajide Alaka | Deputy Editor
The 2-2 draw against Mexico in Texas last Friday has highlighted some weaknesses in the Super Eagles which coach Stephen Keshi needs to fix ahead of the World Cup qualifying games against Kenya on Wednesday and the other against Namibia.
Goal looks at five things that were learnt about the team with a momentous week ahead of the team.
|CENTRAL DEFENDERS MUST BE WARY OF RUNNERS FROM MIDFIELD|
The two goals conceded by the Super Eagles against Mexico on Friday night in Texas were errors made by Godfrey Oboabona and Kenneth Omeruo by not picking up Javier Hernandez, who ran in from deep midfield to connect crosses from the wings.
Against the Kenyans on Wednesday, they will have to be on their toes to nullify the midfield runs of Victor Wanyama, their top midfielder who is capable of setting off his runs from midfield when he believes he is been marked too tightly.
The first goal by Hernandez showed the two central defenders unable to read the movement of the Mexican striker and for his second goal, he simply ran through when there should have been a barricade to stop him. On many other occasions like at the tail end of the first half, the Mexicans almost scored again running from midfield.
Maybe the addition of Mikel Obi to the starting line-up will add a little bit more tactical nous to the defending in Wednesday's encounter.
|OGENYI ONAZI AND JOHN OGU WORKED WELL TOGETHER|
There was incisiveness in their passing and movement especially in the first half and the vacuum showed immediately Ogu had to leave the pitch because of cramps. The addition of Mikel Obi to that twosome should do the trick against Kenya on Wednesday. Another plus for Ogu is that his size will prove beneficial against the likes of Wanyama, who is big, strong and reliable in physical battles.
|SUNDAY MBA MUST LEARN TO TAKE QUICK DECISIONS IN TRANSITION|
There were too many times when the Nigerian attack was in quick transition but was truncated either by Sunday Mba’s first touch or his decision making. Too many turns into trouble showed that he still does not possess an overall awareness of the pitch – this will come with time and experience.
The Enugu Rangers man simply ran himself into cul-de-sacs in the match against Mexico and often times when he could have passed to the overlapping Efe Ambrose, he chose to cut back into midfield. While one will not want to demean these kinds of runs remembering his goal against Cote d’Ivoire at the last Nations Cup, he needs to be told that most of the time football is about doing the simple things – passing the ball and moving into another forward position to receive it back.
|JOSEPH AKPALA CANNOT BE RISKED AGAINST KENYA
The Werder Bremen striker abysmally failed to justify the confidence of being invited into the team by coach Stephen Keshi. Too many balls into his feet just did not stick though it must be said that it seems that he and Brown Ideye are just too similar to play together.
While one will also be quite cautious about how Akpala performed on the night against Mexico, it is simply a gamble that may not pay off against the brawny defenders that the Harambee Stars will parade on Wednesday.
If he eventually plays he must be told not be too much in a hurry to move forward – he should allow the pass to him stick first, make sure that he is not dispossessed of the ball and then look for the free man to offload to. That way he will garner the confidence to pass and move and the opportunity to score will surely materialise.
|ECHIEJILE MUST BE TOLD TO EXERCISE CAUTION IN BOMBING FORWARD
Apart from the fact that he allowed too many crosses from his area, his surging forward runs were almost always punctuated after he had run ahead of the player he passed to. So the Braga defender must copy the way Ambrose overlaps.
He must not imperil the rest of the defence because he wants to get forward – it must almost be sure of receiving the forward pass before he runs ahead of the player with the ball. And knowing he has a fearsome shot, he should learn to evaluate the situation before taking on the shot – there just might be a better-placed player ready to tap into an empty net.
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