Nigeria’s 4-0 victory over Libya in the first-leg of their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Group E qualifying match presented a different side to the Eagles, especially in the absence of captain Mikel Obi and the return of some more regulars after the Seychelles match.
These were the five things we noticed from that scrimmage at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo.
LEON BALOGUN AND WILLIAM TROOST-EKONG ARE TOO COMFORTABLE
The center back pairing have appeared solid for the most part; but only particularly against African oppositions. On Saturday the pair showed the same understanding that duly prompted the moniker Oyinbo Wall.
However, there were occasions in the game when the simply switched off, one expecting the other to act and throwing the back line into utter disorganization.
True, if it ain’t broken don’t fix it. But in the nearest future, Nigeria will go up against sharper attacks than that presented by Libya on Saturday – i.e remember Serbia, Czech Republic and Croatia – then what?
The Super Eagles Technical Adviser needs to either demand his trusted generals sharpen up or he puts them in check with more CB options.
SAMUEL KALU IS MARCHING ONWARD TO EAGLES STAR STATUS; the most exciting thing since – Oruma failed to replace Okocha
For a while the Super Eagles have not seen a player who intends to dribble and succeeds; not fortuitously or accidentally, that is one of the stand out quality of Kalu, who has shown he is adept at this playing style whether in the colors of Nigeria or Bordeaux.
He showed impressive composure and football knowledge with intelligent runs, smooth short passes and an eye for scoring goals; albeit he may need some work on the latter.
Overall, it can be argued the ambidextrous Winger needs a little more polishing on his overall abilities; and importantly some decisiveness in finishing – in which case he could just be on his way to greatness.
ALEX IWOBI CAN BECOME A MIDFIELD WIZARD
There’s been soo much talk about the improvement to his game since the arrival of Unai Emery; obviously Gernot Rohr also noticed.
At the World Cup, the 21-year-old was tested in the midfield role; precisely as Nigeria’s deep lying number 10, but that experiment didn’t play out well.
Four months later he is creating chances, carving defences open with incision passes and providing assists. Iwobi is living his best life right now and at his age he can only grow if he keeps fit and continues to get the chance to play.
WILFRED NDIDI AND OGHENEKARO ETEBO WORK IN PROGRESS; building a frighteningly effective midfield partnership
Ndidi is the brain and Etebo the part that gets the physical work done in a midfield; hit by the injury to Onazi Ogenyi and the absence of Mikel Obi.
Both had a rhythm to their game and the improvement in composure shown by Ndidi was a delight to see. Etebo was physically imposing and graciously showed he is comfortable whether in his defensive role or when required to charge upfront; the box-to-box.
SUPER EAGLES WILL SOON NOT NEED MIKEL OBI
Libya turned out not to be the highest grade of opposition to test the Nigerian Eagles and their readiness for the brutal contest which the AFCON is, but the few questions asked had ready responses from the triad of Ndidi, Etebo and Iwobi, which begs the question how long before captain and midfield maestro Mikel Obi is no longer NEEDED?
What Uyo proved is that the Nigeria midfield will stand or hold when under pressure and can definitely propel attacks and turn the momentum of a match in an instant; actions Mikel is highly prized for.
Overall, there was visible progress made and a cohesion that didn’t break even after the forced substitution of Abdullahi Shehu for Ola Aina or the introduction of Isaac Success for, hat-trick hero, Odion Ighalo and Ahmed Musa for Henry Onyekuru, to keep the attacking pressure.
Rohr will no doubt be pleased with the team’s performance; the first on home soil since the 1-1 draw against DR Congo in a World Cup farewell match.
Next up is the second-leg of the tie between the two when they meet up on Tuesday, 16 October in Tunisia.