10 October 2016
The Super Eagles 2-1 victory over the Chipolopolo of Zambia in Ndola, Zambia, on Sunday means more than a lot for Nigeria’s chances of qualifying from the “Group of death”. It was the Super Eagles’ first away victory in two years and Nigeria’s first-ever win on Zambian soil.
In previous meetings, Nigeria has defeated Zambia six times; once in a penalty shootout, but none was on Zambian soil.
Despite the victory, Super Eagles handler, Gernot Rohr, needs to work on utilisation of chances and opportunities if Nigeria will come out victorious in the Group B of the qualification series.
There is a general belief in football that chances not converted will end up hurting the team. Nigeria failed to convert most of its chances prior to Zambia’s 71st minute goal.
Nigeria should prioritise the conversion of chances to goals going by the fact that the country lost the ticket to play at the 2006 World Cup to Angola because there was nothing to separate the two sides – points, goals difference were the same, making FIFA to use the away goal rule which went against Nigeria.
If the team converts most of its chances, there will be more goals and a higher possibility of winning games. With more goals, Nigeria will have superior goal difference and the 2006 heartbreak is sure not to repeat itself.
Gernot Rohr also needs to take another look at the defence, especially the Right Back and the Central Back. The goal Nigeria conceded is evidence the team needed injured Germany-based defender, Leon Balogun.
This is a good time for Rohr to start looking for equally good backup central defenders.
While it will not be fair to single out a player for blame in a team sport, there is not covering up the fact that Kenneth Omeruo should have done better to prevent Zambia’s goal.
Aside the error that led to the goal, Omeruo looked shaky throughout the game. His counterpart on the right side of the defence also looked shaky. Against a brilliant side, Nigeria would have been punished more than once for the many mistakes made by the defence.
Regardless of the defensive errors, Nigeria had a very good day. Carl Ikeme continued his brilliant performance, Iheanacho scored again while Iwobi continued his club form for country.
Since making his debut for the Super Eagles last year against Tanzania, Ikeme has been impressive. The 30-year-old was calm and responded well when called upon. Having spent only one year in team, Ikeme looks to have gradually settled in as Nigeria’s first choice goalkeeper.
The kind of synergy Premier League duo, Iheanacho and Iwobi exhibited in Zambia is reminiscent of the like that existed between the likes Okocha and Kanu.
Alex Iwobi was one of the few players who completed the most successful dribbles in the match while Iheanacho was also spectacular, always dropping deep to receive the ball.
The duo has been nominated for UEFA Young Players award.
The win against Zambia is a step in the right direction and hopefully Rohr will correct the seemingly visible flaws when they face Algeria in November.
Author: Timilehin Boyinde
Oluwatimilehin Boyinde is a research writer and a social media strategist. A public affairs analyst, he writes about history, politics, sports, life matters and technology. He is passionate about happenings in Local and international political arenas. He is an avid Manchester United fan and an unapologetic Nigerian.