Seychelles vs Nigeria: Where will the game be won and lost?

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The Super Eagles go into Saturday's qualifier as heavy favourites, but will need to pay attention to certain key areas if they are to be victorious

COMMENT    By Solace Chukwu     Follow on Twitter
 

There is no proposition more dangerous than an opponent who has nothing to lose. For Seychelles, ranked well outside Fifa's top 100, Saturday's qualifier is less about winning and more about doing themselves proud.

However, football is a game played on equal terms numerically, and on any given day, just about anything can transpire. This, plus the lack of any real foothold in the group should forestall any notions of complacency from either Gernot Rohr or the Super Eagles players.

The German would do well to approach this game with as thorough a plan as he would for any other. That involves paying attention to certain key areas and factors, by which the outcome of this Africa Cup of Nations 2019 qualifier will be decided.

Gernot Rohr

IN THE HEAD

Seychelles coach Gavin Jean has admitted that his side is likely to be on the end of a hiding come Saturday. Everyone thinks - and expects - that as well. How that plays out will depend on how motivated Rohr can keep his charges.

In that sense, perhaps the numerous withdrawals are a blessing in disguise: the squad contains a number of players with a point to prove, who are unlikely to take anything for granted.

Henry Onyekuru, having missed out on a possible World Cup place due to injury, will be keen to exert his influence; John Ogu, so often on the periphery of things, will get a chance to be the midfield lynchpin; and possible debuts for Jamilu Collins and Samuel Kalu ought to provide impetus out wide.

Having achieved nothing so far on a personal level, it is less likely that they lack the mental focus required to knuckle down to the task at hand.

Wilfred Ndidi, Keneth Omeruo, Ahmed Musa, Henry Onyekuru - Nigeria

THE ARTIFICIAL TURF

Stade Linite, which will play host to Saturday's game, is a synthetic surface, and that will almost certainly be a factor.

The jarring effect on the joints and muscles, as well as the heat it gives off, makes synthetic turf problematic. For a long time, team captain John Obi Mikel demurred at the prospect, and one is tempted to wonder if this might not have played a part in his withdrawal for this tie. In any case, it adds a layer of uncertainty to proceedings.

There is also the small matter of ball behaviour, which is less predictable when playing on synthetic pitches: bounces are higher than usual, and the ball travels differently along the floor.

Will this be enough to tip the scale in favour of the hosts? One would expect not. It is, however, a real concern.

Nigeria training - Francis Uzoho

THE DEFENCE AND GOALKEEPER

Perhaps with the exception of the wide areas, no other department of the team has been as rocked by injuries as the backline. So extreme is it, in fact, that Rohr could, in theory, field two debutants.

The injury to Ola Aina might force, not only a change in personnel, but also a change in system, which is a worry considering that much of defending hinges on communication.

Francis Uzoho in goal further compounds the issue. The youngster is ostensibly the national team's number one now, but is still unmistakably undercooked in certain respects. Is he really the right person to transmit calm to an uncertain defence?

It is safe to say that, however one-sided the game is, Seychelles will likely get a look at some point. The low-scoring nature of football makes this prospect a potentially perilous one, and being able to deal with it might be the difference between a routine win and an upset.

John Ogu

INCISION FROM MIDFIELD

With no natural number 10 in the squad, Rohr will have to devise a means by which the incisive play can come from other areas.

It is likely that the German will field two forwards, but they will require service in order to be truly effective. The ability to play forward quickly will therefore be crucial, especially if Seychelles predictably choose to park the bus.

Mikel is, of course, unavailable for this one, and so it is probable that Ogu gets the nod to orchestrate play from deep. While the team captain is a lot safer with his distribution, Ogu is the more aggressive passer, able to zip balls into the space behind the opposition midfield.

An alternative would be the promising Kelechi Nwakali, who is more inclined to the through ball, but can be guilty of dallying on the ball.

Whichever Rohr opts for, he has the midfield tools to put the Pirates on the back foot. How he chooses to deploy them will make the difference on the day.

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