Super Eagles defender Leon Balogun says the team has learnt from their “collective” mistakes in the 4-4 draw with Sierra Leone and will look to put “Benin into trouble [and] ask them questions throughout the game” when both sides meet in a 2021 AFCON qualifier on Saturday.
Nigeria blew the chance to seal a place in Cameroon when they failed to beat Sierra Leone over two legs in the last qualifying window, famously blowing a four-goal first-half lead to draw with the unfancied Leone Stars at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium.
The Eagles were pilloried following the game and came in for more criticism following an uninspiring goalless stalemate in the return leg in Freetown.
But Balogun, while conceding the players made errors as a “collective” that they must eliminate when they play Benin, insists the 4-4 draw with Sierra Leone wasn’t as bad as is being made out.
“It is minimising mistakes that have been made because the Sierra Leone game, I know a lot of people will disagree – unpopular opinion – but I’ll take that under the chin, that’s not a problem, but the Sierra Leone game wasn’t all bad because you just don’t score four goals and dominate the game like that,” the Rangers centre-back declared.
“It was just that something happened on that day that then just went sideways. There were mistakes made as a collective and it’s about eradicating them, learning from them and advancing.”
The focus must now switch to Saturday’s game against Benin game, Balogun says, adding that the players must ensure they’re the “best version of ourselves” against the Squirrels and ” ask them questions throughout the game frequently that they come short to answer”.
The 32-year-old is hopeful the result at the end will be a lot more positive than what transpired against Sierra Leone in Nigeria.
“It doesn’t help anyone to keep going back to the game, it’s a new match on Saturday and we just have to make sure that we are the best versions of ourselves,” the 32-year-old who recently won the Scottish league title with Rangers said.
“[Make sure] that we minimise mistakes and that we focus on our strengths and put Benin into trouble, ask them questions throughout the game frequently that they come short to answer.
“Are we going to go full out? Yes, we do that every time and hopefully, because I can’t foresee the future but hopefully, this time, this will look different than from the first leg against Sierra Leone.”