Rohr has balls
The coach started Ahmed Musa and Moses Simon and this brought more pace to the attack. Captain John Mikel Obi and hotshot Samuel Chukwueze were dropped to the bench as a result. Mikel had an average game against the Swallows, playing the number 10 role. However, with the kind of influence he wields in the team, one would think he is indispensable once he’s in the squad. For Chukwueze, he was the liveliest player in attack in the group opener and has fast become a fan favourite. Dropping those two players is a sign that Rohr is not afraid to impose his will and do as he deems fit, without having to bow to the demands and pressures of external forces.
Moses Simon shines again
With Chukwueze dropped, Moses Simon came in. The Levante wide man was making his first start for the national team since the World Cup qualifier against Zambia on October 2017, that sealed Nigeria’s berth in Russia. He was a threat down the right flank with his pace and consistent crosses caused all sorts of problems for Guinea. Nigeria isn’t known for set piece goals, but Simon was lethal in this area and it was no surprise that the only goal came from his corner which Kenneth Omeruo headed home in the 73rd minute. Set pieces are golden opportunities to score goals and with Simon a specialist, Rohr might need to consider using him more in the tournament.
Guinea not acting like favourites
The Syli Nationale were considered Group B favourites alongside Nigeria, but have so far failed to show their worth, having drawn 2-2 with minnows Madagascar in their first game. They have been far from the strong side that went through the Afcon qualifiers unbeaten, and are now winless in their last seven games, including warm-up friendly defeats to Benin Republic and Egypt. With their last competitive victory coming in October 2018 and just a solitary point ahead of their final group game against a resilient Burundi, Paul Put’s men are hanging on a very thin thread.
Naby Keita far from fit
It’s been a race by Guinea to get their star man Naby Keita to overcome a groin injury he suffered at the start of May while on Champions League duty with Liverpool. Having come off the bench against Madagascar, the former RB Leipzig man started this time on Wednesday afternoon, but he failed to provide any spark and was a target of numerous challenges from Nigeria, eventually getting substituted after 71 minutes. Though the Syli Nationale is built around Keita, it was probably better if they did not rush his fitness and rather work on a plan B, because his inability to deliver will further hamper their slim chances of making it to the Round of 16.
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Omeruo breaks the ‘Oyinbo Wall’
Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong have formed a very solid partnership in central defense under Gernot Rohr’s watch. Popularly called ‘the Oyinbo Wall,’ the duo have looked unshakable, but that has changed thanks Kenneth Omeruo. The Chelsea loanee had a stellar season at Leganes and he has been able to use that to convince Rohr he’s very much a key player. He has now started Nigeria’s two opening Afcon games with either of Balogun and Troost-Ekong paired with him. Omeruo has been rock solid at back, bringing a solidity that has resulted in two clean sheets, a goal against Guinea and Man of the Match award against the same opponent. Should the 25-year defender continue this rich vein of form, it could be goodbye to the ‘Oyinbo Wall’ for good.