Nigeria need to sort out the central defence & the five things we learnt in Addis Ababa

The Super Eagles won in Addis Ababa but there were various things noticed during the encounter that can be improved upon
By Babajide Alaka | Deputy Editor

They say that the thing about a good football side is that they will be able to win even when they do not play well. That was the scenario when the Eagles flew over the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia on Sunday in Addis Ababa.

Despite having fewer possession and at times being run over in the midfield – they got two precious away goals that almost makes their trip to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil a sure certainty unless there is a collapse of great proportions in the second leg.

Goal looks at the encounter and five things that caught the attention.


The distance between the two central defenders in a 4-4-2 formation is supposed to be 10 metres at the maximum when their team is attacking and 5m when they are defending. Even though none of the two – Azubuike Egwuekwe and Godfrey Oboabona - were uncomfortable with the ball at their feet, Oboabona proved more of the last ditch defender.

On many occasions against Ethiopia, the Walya Antelopes were able to isolate the central defenders and take them on. The ball that Oboabona cleared off the line from Saladin Said came about because they were caught square from a long ball. Between the two, there had to be the tackler and the other the cleaner but in the Eagles case you cannot easily decipher who is which between the two.

 Any world-class attacker will be able to exploit these gaps and if the Ethiopians had been a bit more potent, maybe we would be talking about coming back from a loss.


Emmanuel Emenike has not scored for his new club Fenerbahce in six appearances this season. Though he scored for his former club Spartak Moscow before his move. But he has scored four times for the Super Eagles in the last three matches.

More importantly, he has scored very important goals in the last two competitive matches for the national side. Against Malawi, he got the opening goal and then last Sunday, he got the two goals that dragged the Eagles from a certain defeat to an unlikely victory.

With 10 goals in 17 Grade ‘A’ matches, the Otuocha-born striker is looking to become the real deal for Nigeria in the coming months.


The first half performance by the Eagles looked disjointed and haphazard with so many gaps appearing between the defence, midfield and attack and it took the Ethiopians going ahead in the encounter for the right changes to be made.

Stephen Keshi withdrew two very ineffective players – Nnamdi Oduamadi and Victor Moses, whom every fan had expected to sparkle and spark the Nigerian attack. Moses even had the chance to score the equalizer after the Antelopes scored but he fluffed his lines.

On came Nosa Igiebor, which meant that Mikel Obi was allowed to move further forward and from that advanced position, Mikel produced two moments, which were scoring positions. Ahmed Musa spurned his but Emenike was brought down for the spot kick that led to the second goal.

The other substitute was Brown Ideye, who came on for Moses and immediately, the attack started functioning and pushed the Ethiopians back.


With the World Cup in Brazil in the discernible horizon, there is the need for the super Eagles coaches to bolster the team with more quality. We should at this point in time already know like 17 or 18 players that are almost dead certainties for the Mundial.

That leaves five or six spots left that need to be filled. The defence needs bolstering and now is the time when the erstwhile captain of the team, Joseph Yobo should be recalled. Yes, Azubuike Egwuekwe has done his best and Kenneth Omeruo is back on the mend but Yobo at 33, represents enough experience to help the younger defenders develop further. Another plus for Yobo is the fact that he is adaptable.

Others like Peter Odemwingie, Ikechukwu Uche, Lukman Haruna, Taye Taiwo can be recalled – by the express wishes of the Stephen Keshi-led coaching crew. We need to go to the World Cup and prove a point and for that we need all our best players.


A good team wins when it is playing well but a great team wins when it is not playing well. Last Sunday in Addis Ababa, the Super Eagles were outplayed for most parts of the game but left the pitch as winners.

In the first half, the Walya Antelopes had 61% of possession with one shot on target while the Eagles with their measly 39% possession had three.

That stat shows that the team is becoming very effective and result-oriented. This characteristic will serve the team well in tournament mode – they will not be at their best in all games but they will find a way of getting the required victory.

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