AFCON 2023: Analysts take on Super Eagles after poor showing against Saudi Arabia

At no point did the Super Eagles look convincing enough to defeat Saudi Arabia in an international friendly on Friday night.

Not even when Kelechi Iheanacho slammed the ball home in the 81st minute to give Nigeria a 2-1 lead at the Estádio Municipal de Portimão.

Victor Boniface’s deflected strike had cancelled out Salman Al-Faraj’s opener.

With literally seconds left in the game, Mohammaed Kanno smashed home a free-kick for the Asian nation.

Again, the match highlighted the flaws that have become typical with the Eagles under Jose Peseiro.

“My general thoughts on the game are that the Super Eagles must play as a functional coherent team on the field and guard against conceding needless free kicks around our 18-yard box,” Nomso Obiajuru, the Football Team Lead at Sports Brief tells DAILY POST.

He added: “They also need to do better with defending set pieces.

“We have very good individual players but struggle to play well as a team.

“In the early stage of the game, we looked decent. In the first 20 minutes, we perhaps could have been two nil up with chances for Osimhen and Chukwueze not taken.

“But shortly after that, we lacked any form of creativity and gave away the ball too many times with Chukwueze and Lookman being guilty on several occasions.

“Bruno Onyemaechi picked up from where he stopped against Sao Tome and Principe as he was a handful in the left-back position for the Super Eagles. His crosses kept the Saudi Arabia goalkeeper busy in the first half and he created a good chance for Osimhen which was not converted.

“Kelechi Iheanacho showed why he is still important in the team as he came in with less than 20 minutes on the clock but registered two shots on target with one finding the back of the net. He looked sharper than Samuel Chukwueze who he replaced.

“Moses Simon also showed why he is still a leader in the team as he changed the game, getting an assist and being a constant threat in the attack, something Ademola Lookman who he replaced failed to do.

“Victor Boniface looked really sharp and was good in the early stages of the first half. His movement in the box was also good and that led to Nigeria’s equalizer forcing the Saudi defender to score an own goal.”

On players who had a poor showing, Obiajuru stated that: “Ademola Lookman missed a sitter in the last minute of the first half and gave away the ball too many times.

“Samuel Chukwueze missed a good chance in the first half and also gave away the ball too many times

“Francis Uzoho did not have much to do. He was called to action in the first half with a good save but was beaten twice in the second half via set pieces, the first being a terrible howler and the second a wicked deflection.”

Nigeria will play their second friendly of this international window against Mozambique on Monday.

“In the next game against Mozambique, I expect Peseiro to start Simon and Iheanacho ahead of Chukwueze and Lookman,” Obiajuru said.

“Hopefully, Osimhen’s injury in this game isn’t too serious, so I expect him to start upfront again with Boniface.

“Uzoho needs to be on the bench and Adeleye should be given the nod to start. Peseiro also needs to improve his lads on how to defend set pieces. I fear this will be the Super Eagles’ major problem at AFCON,” he noted.

Clinton McDubus, a top football analyst and podcaster, feels Peseiro has to strive for tactical balance in his team.

“I think Peseiro has to prioritise balance,” McDubus tells DAILY POST.

“If you will play a 4-4-2, you have to play one wide man that can tuck in to add numbers in midfield, while the other wide man has the freedom to get forward and be devastating.

“We are so thin in midfield and unable to control because he plays two wide men who get forward at every opportunity. It’s the same principle used for fullbacks, one goes and one sits. I’d like to see him sort that out.”

Peseiro will use the matches against Saudi Arabia and Mozambique to fine-tune his ideas and personnel ahead of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations next January.

The draw for the tournament was conducted yesterday and the Eagles will face hosts Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea in Group A.

What are the chances of the three-time champions?

“With our strength in attack, we should definitely shine at AFCON. The key is really to outscore opponents.

“However, it’s important that we never lose sight of how tournaments work. We cannot afford to be as naive as we were at the last AFCON. Balance is always key. Game management will also be key,” McDubus adds.

 

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