By James Ezimoha & Solace Chukwu
Stephen Keshi pulled a surprise with his team selection for Nigeria's 1-0 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Big Boss dropped Victor Moses, one of the team's high-profile players and replaced him with Michael Babatunde.
The FC Volyn Lutsk man hadn't made much of an impact for the Super Eagles before this summer and was a surprise inclusion in the final squad of 23.
He impressed, however, against Bosnia, delivering an efficient, measured performance and providing the midfield with balance. Next up are Argentina, and Nigeria have the opportunity to return to the last 16 for the first time since 1998.
Two of Goal Nigeria's writers debate whether Babatunde should retain his spot in the first XI, or whether Moses should return to the team.
|Moses is out of form - Babatunde should keep his place
By Solace Chukwu
Momentum is an important thing in football. Class may be permanent, but in World Cups it is form that often makes the difference.
For this reason, it would be a huge mistake for Victor Moses to return to the Super Eagles starting XI against Argentina.
The mercurial winger was horribly off the pace against Iran. So negligible was his impact that he only touched the ball 16 times and played six passes in 52 minutes.
Following Nigeria’s struggles in the opening group game, Stephen Keshi turned to a virtual unknown in Michael Babtunde - whose experience in the national side comprised of four anonymous appearances.
It was a tremendous show of faith in the 21-year-old, but he repaid it several times over. Confident on the ball and drifting intelligently out to the flanks to maintain width when the wingers moved into central positions, Babatunde exuded calm. He grew into a more direct goal threat in the second half, twice drawing saves from Asmir Begovic.
Dropping Moses was a big statement. But he had been running on auto-pilot, safe with his status as one of Keshi’s ‘undroppables’. This was to serve as a shock to the system required to get him motivated again.
So, has the lesson been learnt? There’s only one way to find out: play him.
However, consider the stakes here. The Super Eagles are not qualified yet, and travel to Porto Alegre on Wednesday needing a point to guarantee progression. Surely it is more of a risk restoring Moses - a player who spent virtually the entire league season on the bench?
The correct call is to retain Babatunde.
|Argentina are not Bosnia - Moses must return
By James Ezimoha
Congratulations to Michael Babatunde for delivering a fantastic performance against Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, there is a big difference between starring versus Bosnia and then doing the same against Argentina.
Despite having a poor game against Iran in the first match, as the entire Nigeria team did, Victor Moses’ importance to the team cannot be questioned.
Time and again, the Chelsea man has almost single-handedly dragged the Super Eagles to victory, scoring and assisting vital goals.
This is the man who delivered Nigeria the African Cup of Nations 2013 and took them through the rigours of World Cup qualification.
In every area of the game - bar defending - Victor Moses outshines Babatunde.
Particularly in the final third. Even against Bosnia, Babatunde's decision-making in and around the opposition box let him down so many times. He seldom took responsibility for attacks, opting to play safe. This attitude won't get you very far at the World Cup.
On the other hand, Moses takes delight in driving at defenders, and almost always carries the attacking threat for the Eagles. So why would you leave such a player on the bench? A player who, unlike few others, has the experience of playing on the biggest stage against the best opponents.
Argentina are not Bosnia.
Babatunde is not Moses.