Five Things I Learned From Poland Vs Nigeria

Time To Panic!!! There’s a goalkeeping problem in the Super Eagles

It’s now more than a year since the last time Carl Ikeme played for the Super Eagles; surely Gernot Rohr would have found a suitable replacement? A solution to the goalkeeping questions? No. No. There’s no timeline as to when he will return to football and Nigeria appears to have moved on.

19 year-old Francis Uzoho stood between the sticks (sometimes literally) against Poland’s Eagles, joining Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Daniel Akpeyi, Dele Ajiboye, and Dele Alampasu as some of the goalkeepers to have attempted to win a place, and the hearts of Nigerians…Let’s just say he didn’t light up the occasion.

Uzoho was particularly unsure in the opening minutes of the game, and he fumbled a lot of crosses which he should have claimed easily. Indeed, he was largely culpable as the Polish appeared to have taken the lead after a setpiece. They were only denied by a goalline clearance as Uzoho looked on hopelessly.

The Deportivo La Coruna B goalkeeper became more stable in the second half, but he had done enough in the first half to sow the seed of doubt in the minds of a lot of Nigerians.

Ikechukwu Ezenwa, who played Nigeria’s crucial World Cup qualifiers, is in line to return between the sticks against Serbia next week. Will the Enyimba man prove to be better than Uzoho? Will Rohr have seen enough to make up his mind on his No 1, will Nigerians be confident enough in whoever is selected?

Joel Obi could come in handy

Returning to the Super Eagles fold after four years, one would have forgiven Joel Obi for treating his teammates as strangers. As a matter of fact, many members of the current team were not even in contention the last time Joel Obi donned the Super Eagles’ green. Instead of being lost, Joel Obi immediately assumed a leadership role in midfield and looked to impose himself both defensively and offensively.

Nigeria’s midfield was largely underwhelming, but the attitude and intensity, even more so from Obi who has just returned from an injury layoff proved a good tool for Nigeria in midfield areas.

He’s a totally different player from Mikel Obi who he replaced in the starting XI, but he bring another dimension in midfield that could be explored. Don’t be surprised if he sneaks on the plane to Russia

Keep it when you have it

Against the Polish, who are ranked 6th in the world, and actually came out to impose themselves in front of some 30,000 fans at the Stadion Miejski we Wrocławiu , Nigeria indeed held their own well. The pressing was impressive; the organisation and coordination, even without captain John Mikel Obi, looked good as well.

Nigeria had their fair share of possession. Generally, having the ball wasn’t much of a problem – but keeping it was.

There seemed a continuous struggle to playing it out from the back whenever the Eagles won the ball. The defensive partnership of the ‘Oyinbo Wall’, and the double pivot of Joel Obi (until he went off) and Wilfred Ndidi time and again failed to show the technical abilities and movement required to pass through the channels to get the ball to the front four in areas of the pitch they would have loved.

Without keeping the ball properly, Nigeria could suffer against high pressing sides (likely Croatia & Argentina) in Russia.

…But they are willing to suffer

Because that’s what they did against Poland. And this isn’t the first time they’ve had to suffer since Gernot Rohr took over as national team coach. In the early days of Rohr, the team had to grind out wins against Zambia and Algeria as they built a solid foundation for their eventual World Cup qualification. Call it the hunger from the players, call it playing for the coach, whatever, fighting and commitment has been a major hallmark since the German took charge of the Super Eagles in 2016.

With the absence of Mikel Obi, and with the team struggling to hold on to the ball, they conceded more chances as the game wore on (even more so as they chased an equaliser). And for 30 odd minutes, the Super Eagles had to work hard. Sometimes it was a last ditch tackle, sometimes it was a determined sprint to get back in defensive position, and some other times, it was a big save from the goalkeeper Francis Uzoho (who denied Lewandowski, who had Poland’s biggest chance).

It wasn’t pretty, but it was mostly controlled. And while Argentina and Croatia may pack a bigger punch, with the sort of attitude and intensity the Super Eagles showed against Poland, they’ll hold their own against these sides.

Super Eagles need Moses to lead the attack in Russia

For a second season running now, despite being a more attack-minded player, Victor Moses has had to play as a rightwing back for his club Chelsea. It has offered him a way back to playing regular football. It may even have helped his confidence.

Through this time, he’s continued to play an attacking role for the Nigerian national team, scoring three goals to finish Nigeria’s topscorer in the qualification process. He managed to somehow handle the constant switch in position while being crucial for both sides. Until lately.

The 27 year-old has lost some form, and there’ve been calls for him to be dropped from the XI of both teams. So starting against Poland on Friday evening, he needed to reaffirm his position and make a statement. He did.

Moses, like the entire Nigeria attack was subdued, but it was he who still won Nigeria a controversial penalty (He dived from the way I saw it). He got himself up to convert the penalty to hand Nigeria the win.

There were flashes of the brilliance and trickery he’s capable of, and regardless of his current form, he showed that he’s still the go-to man in the Super Eagles attack.