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U17 World Cup

U17 World Cup: Nigeria need to work on their finishing and defending – Obuh

4:10 PM GMT 05/11/2019
Nigeria U17
Ahead of Tuesday's Round of 16 fixture, the former U17 coach advised Manu Garba's boys on how to approach the game against their European opponents

Former Nigeria U17 coach John Obuh has urged the Golden Eaglets to improve on their finishing and defending when they take on the Netherlands on Tuesday.

The five-time world champions are scheduled to lock horns against the European nation in the Round of 16 of the Fifa U-17 World Cup in Brazil.

Despite their 2-1 loss to Australia last Friday, Manu Garba’s boys finished as Group B winners with six points after three games, but the Akwa United manager has pointed out two technical faults in the team.

"I hope they do well because they took the last game for granted probably because they have qualified," Obuh told Goal.

"The only technical aspect I can talk about is their finishing and their defence during the attack."

During the group phase, Nigeria conceded a total of six goals, two in each of their games against Hungary, Ecuador and Australia.

Obuh questioned the lacklustre defending in the team and lack of concentration during play.

"The thing about this team is that when the attack is flowing very well, even when it has not resulted in a goal, most of these defenders get disorganised because they're more interested in watching what the attackers are doing, forgetting they have a role to play in case there's a counter from the attack they're enjoying,” he added.

"I think that's the problem they have because most times when an attack is finished, they are not prepared to defend it because of their ambition of expecting a goal.”

Aside from the defensive lapses, the Golden Eaglets were guilty of missing several chances in front of goal. Against the Joeys in Gama on Friday, Nigeria had 34 shots with 11 on target and only one resulted in a goal.

Obuh blamed Manu Garba’s boys for their indecisiveness and has called for calm in the final third.

"Secondly, in the attack, they're too quick in taking decisions. Their decisions are not organised at all," the 59-old noted.

"Their thinking is not the same, that's why when you see them in the attacking third instead of them to be calm and look at their formation for who is in a better position to score, they start shooting from every angle which might be good if they hit the target but it is usually off-target.

"They need to be very calm because in their last game against Australia, they were very flamboyant in front of goal and it has been happening since their first game but it was so conspicuous against Australia.”

Obuh, who also managed the Nigeria U20 team between 2010 and 2013, noted the performances of the players and has charged them to work together as a team, rather than being self-centred.

"Thirdly, they're too individualistic in their approach to the game, things like that might have caused by what scouts and agents have told them because when the intermediaries interfere in these players' performances, they'll advise them to be individual," he continued.

"They'll want to show their individual abilities, by so doing, they are not doing the team any good. I think Manu is grounded with all these things and I'm sure he must have addressed it because I had this kind of problem when I was with the U17 and it was a very difficult situation but thank God I was able to manage it."

Victory against the Netherlands at the Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico would boost Nigeria’s chances of winning the age-grade tournament for a record sixth time, after previous triumphs in 1985, 1993, 2007, 2013 and 2015.

But the former Enugu Rangers and Kwara United tactician does not see them as favourites for the title just yet.

"This team is not predictable, it has to do with the progressiveness of the team. Once a team is progressive, their chances become wider so let's look at this particular match they will play today," he added.

"That is where our target must be, let's hope they will put their tactical abilities into the game and from there, we can start looking at their next round."