The Super Eagles played their first match of 2020 on Friday, October 9, against Algeria in Austria.
Before the Super Eagles fans get mad over the result of this game, we must realise that the Super Eagles coach invited 10 new players to camp due to the absence of Victor Osimhen, Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo and Joe Aribo.
Since this is the first time these players are together, one expects that it will take some time for them to play well as a team.
We’ve seen this with England, Germany, Netherlands and even Spain that are playing together for the first time in a year due to COVID-19.
For these two friendly matches, let’s not get worried about the result, but rather focus on understanding what coach Gernot Rohr might be trying to do for next month’s qualifiers.
In the Nigeria-Alageria game, I thought Algeria were very fast in the early minutes, and Nigeria couldn’t keep up with their pace in the opening 10 minutes.
This resulted in the early goal against the Super Eagles.
Algeria lined up a 4-3-3 system that had Riyad Mahrez roaming around in midfield instead of his usual wing position. Said Benhrama did the same.
Having their two most tricky and creative players in midfield gave Nigeria problems in the first half as they played with a front five, thus putting pressure on Frank Onyeka and Semi Ajayi in midfield.
So instead of playing Rohr’s usual 4-2-3-1 formation, the Eagles reverted to a 4-3-2-1/ 4-5-1 just to match their front five.
Towards the end of the half, Nigeria started moving the ball more quickly. Iwobi and Chukwueze found a lot of space on the counter. Iwobi was one of the best players in the first half, and should have scored.
Chukwueze and Kalu looked a bit rusty. They lacked the clinical edge to run at Algeria’s fullbacks and score.
Sanusi and Ebuehi were excellent going forward, making the pitch wider, and creating overloads on the flanks.
For the first time in a long while, the Super Eagles played with fullbacks who can go up and down the pitch, and provide an outlet on both sides.
The Eagles were no longer one-dimensional – meaning all our attacks coming from one side because the other side doesn’t have enough quality. This always made it easier for teams to defend against the Super Eagles.
Paul Onuachu was poor in attack and didn’t offer much in the game. Balogun and Troost-Ekong both looked shaky at times as Center Backs. Iheanacho and Tijani impressed when they came on.
The Super Eagles were the better team in the second half and deserved to score at least two goals.
Algeria mainly played on the counter as the Eagles pushed more players forward looking for an equalizer.
Despite the early goal, Algeria did not look as good as the team that beat the Super Eagles at the AFCON semi-final last year.
Again, let’s not get worried. These two friendly matches should be seen as warm-up matches before the crucial AFCON qualifiers next month.
The games should be used to work on the fitness and sharpness of the players as well as build team chemistry.
Rohr has done well to invite 10 new players to camp.
For now the Super Eagles remain work in progress.
-Ikem Aginam is a student of St. Joseph Catholic High School, Ottawa Canada. He is a fan of the Super Eagles of Nigeria.