Home International 5 Talking Points From the Nigeria vs Sierra Leone AFCON Qualification

5 Talking Points From the Nigeria vs Sierra Leone AFCON Qualification

Super Eagles of Nigeria at AFCON

The Game

Nigeria held a healthy 4-0 lead over Sierra Leone by the 29th minute. The Super Eagles looked like they were on their way to an easy victory over their fellow West Africans. It was not to be as Kwame Quee started the comeback with a goal in the first half.

Alhaji Kamara scored twice with Mustapha Bundu of Anderlecht scoring between the brace to secure a draw for Sierra Leone. The match was particularly disappointing from the Nigerian perspective as it looked like a straightforward victory for Nigeria from the early minutes. We analyze a few issues from the game below. 

Lack Of Midfield Control

In Nigeria’s  4231/433, Oghenekaro Etebo and Joe Aribo were tasked with the midfield piovot duties. However, even when the Nigerian players were dominating the scoreline, the midfield was loose and the ball rotation/ retention was poor.

They did not know when to up the ante or slow the game down. The midfielders consistently showed loose touches that left them chasing a game they were supposed to be controlling. In fairness to them, they were not the only ones to show loose touches but you expect better control from your midfielders.

Another problem for the Super Eagles was the inability of the midfield to create angles for their defenders during the buildup phase. The defenders moved the ball well enough but the lack of angles made the phase more tepid and ineffective. William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun moved the ball well enough but Etebo did not allow good openings with his stale movement.

No Osimhen, No Victory

The above statement is not factual. Sierra Leone was already halfway on their way to the draw when Osimhen went off with what looked like an arm injury. The point is that his absence was palpable. Paul Onuachu does not possess Osimhen’s athletic prowess, his doggedness in press, and sheer will to get on the end of every ball. 

Osimhen’s linkup play was effective in getting the goal for Samuel Chukwueze. He got his head into a long ball and Chukwueze took the ball to finish the move. Osimhen is not just about the goals, he wears his heart on his sleeve and attacks every ball like he means it.

Onuachu was quite ineffective in hold-up/link-up. He was lethargic in the press and did not give the long-field balls an outlet despite being the bigger man. You can also argue that Leon Balogun being replaced by Semi Ajayi was another reason but Osimhen’s grit is arguably more valuable.

Goalkeeper Issues

Maduka Okoye has only started 2 games for Sparta Rotterdam this season and in one of them he conceded 4 to Heerenveen. In the other, he did keep a clean sheet over RKC Waalwijk. Maduka was uninspiring with his cross collection and he could have saved at least one of the Sierra Leone goals. His positioning for the goals showed unrefinement.

He was very quick to react throughout the game but as a goalkeeper, timing is everything. Maduka should still get a chance in goal after better performances in friendlies against Algeria and Tunisia. This was not the best goalkeeping display however. 

Good Chukwueze, Bad Chukwueze

With the goal, you see everything great about Chukwueze. After the the goal you see everything bad about Chukwueze. The Villarreal attacker does not influence the game enough for a man of his talents. He needs to do more, to grab the game harder. With the goal, he showed speed, dribbling, and good finishing after getting on the end of a header from Osimhen. This goal is what we know he is capable of but we need it more across 90 minutes and across a full season. 

 For long periods of the game, Chukwueze can drift in and out. With most young attackers, they love to hug the ball rather than get on the end of passes but Chukwueze differs. He fails to keep a steady imprint on games with consistent running WITH the ball. And as a winger, that is your primary contribution.  Even the attackers who are very good in the final phase have good ball-carrying abilities.

Attackers such as Raheem Sterling and Mohamed Salah are criticized for being “poachers” but they also have fantastic ball-carrying which allows them to arrive in the final phase, with or without the midfield. These are the little elements that Chukwueze needs to incorporate into his game. Ball-carrying and some consistency across a 90-minute performance. 

Ahmed Musa is 28 and a Free Agent

I do not know why I have chosen this as a subheading but I feel the above is important information. Gernot Rohr looked at all the wingers in the NPFL and in the many leagues across the world and thought to himself, “No, Musa is the choice in which I am well-pleased”. Musa does not have a professional club and it showed. 

He looked out of sorts in the first half and soon enough, he was hooked from the game. The pace of the game proved too much too soon for him. To make matters worse, he was wearing the armband and was being looked to for leadership at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin. This is not on Musa by the way, this is on the coach for a terrible selection choice. 

In Conclusion

The capitulation was embarrassing but Nigeria can cover this shame when they travel to Sierra Leone on Tuesday the 17th of November.

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