5 Big Talking Points From Super Eagles Friendlies Against Saudi Arabia, Mozambique Ahead W/Cup Qualifiers, AFCON

8 months ago
4 mins read

Nigeria defeated Mozambique 3-2 in Monday’s international friendly at the Estádio Municipal de Albufeira to end a 55-month streak of not winning in a non-competitive game, with the last victory coming in the 1-0 win over Egypt on 26 March 2019 at the Stephen Keshi stadium, Asaba.

The team had 72 hours earlier drawn 2-2 against Saudi Arabia.

Prime Business Africa’s Izuchukwu Okosi presents the talking points from the games before the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign begins in November and the 34th Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivorie in January/February 2024.

 

1. Goalkeeping Conudrum

Super Eagles head coach Jose Peseiro handed Francis Uzoho another shot at goal after being in goal for the 2-2 draw against Saudi Arabia.

The decision of the Portuguese left most Nigerian supporters bewildered with the duo of Maduka Okoye and Olorunleke Ojo available for selection.

Uzoho conceded goals that embarrassing to say the least and it begs the question of Peseiro’s belief in other keepers.

Why was Okoye or Ojo not given the chance to play in a friendly ahead of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers in November?

Peseiro would need to extend his dragnet to scout for more goalkeepers or upgrade his coaching team in the goalkeeping department.

However, the Eagles must not be a team of second-bests where average players rejected by other nations will find solace.

The phrase ‘average’ is emphasised here as quality players of Nigerian descent must be allowed to represent the country if they show interest. Nigerians born at home are not more Nigerian than Nigerians in diaspora with the blood of the nation running in their veins.

 

2. Defensive Options

Another factor for Peseiro to consider on improving the team is the options in defence.

Aside Kenneth Omeruo and William Troost-Ekong, the current crop of Super Eagles defenders are not particularly experienced at the international level.

Ekong is not particularly in the good books of Peseiro who seems to prefer the central defensive pairing of Semilore Ajayi and Calvin Bassey.

Despite the duo’s experience in the English league which seems to be what is going for them, they are not tested at the African continent and against African teams at major tournaments.

The full backs are fairly in good stead especially the right back position with the quartet of Ola Aina, Tyrone Ebuehi, Bright Osayi-Samuel and Chidozie Awaziem the options.

At the left back, Bruno Onyemaechi is the new kid on the block. He was one of the two players that retained their place in the second friendly against Madagascar. He was impressive also against Saudi Arabia.

Zaidu Sanusi plays for to Portuguese giants, Porto, but has suffered injury setbacks while Jamilu Collins is not certain of being in the top two choices at the moment.

The lack of requisite experience at the back is something that the coaching crew must iron out and find the best solution for before the qualifiers and Africa Cup of Nations.

 

How Eagles Stars Performed In Draw Versus Saudi Arabia 

3. Midfield’s Steel and Creativity

The duo of Wilfred Ndidi and Alex Iwobi who are the regular first options in the defensive and attacking midfield positions did not start against Mozambique as they did against Saudi Arabia.

Only Iwobi came off the bench on Monday while Ndidi sat out the game.

In Ndidi’s place was Brentford’s Frank Onyeka while Raphael Onyedika also made his first start for the team. Onyeka scored a lovely goal with a shot from the edge of the box to show he can add goals to his steel.

Tom Dele-Bashiru made his debut in the game on Monday in attacking midfield in place of Iwobi and was fazed by the occasion.

Whether the youngster is a good fit for the team remains to be seen months after Crystal Palace superstar Eberechi Eze elected to represent England and not Nigeria.

 

4. Best Wingers For the Eagles

AC Milan forward Samuel Chukwueze churns out great, quality performances for the teams he has played for in Europe.

Prior to the move to the Italian capital, Chukwueze was adjudged the best African player in the Spanish La Liga as a Villarreal player.

The world class goals he scored in the game against Real Madrid is still fresh in the minds of Nigerian supporters.

However Chukwueze has not replicated same form for the Nigerian national team in recent memory to the frustration of those who know his potential.

The ‘African Robben’ was a class act for the Yellow Submarine but he failed to convert his chances against the Saudis as has been the case in recent international games.

Moses Simon showed glimpses of his 2021 AFCON form in the friendlies, thereby laying claims to first team berths. He seems to edge it over Ademola Lookman.

The questions who then would be an alternative for a starting place on the right side o the wing where Chukwueze operates.

Peseiro must also ensure that he plays wingers who will not invert infield but go for wide men who will cross the box into the opposition penalty box when he plays the 4-4-2 formation.

 

5. Osimhen’s Support Cast

Barring a long term injury and any kind of unforseen situations, Victor Osimhen who is injured, copped from the game against Saudi Arabia, and expected to miss four weeks of action for SS Napoli, will make Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations squad.

The question on the lips of most supporters is: which other strikers aside Osimhen and another mainstay, Kelechi Iheanacho, from the list that includes Victor Boniface, Taiwo Awoniyi, Terem Moffi, Paul Onuachu, Gift Orban, and perhaps Daniel Akor will make the squad.

Peseiro played a two-man attack against Saudi Arabia with the two Victors in action.

It would be interesting to know what the choices would be if the team are to head to Cote d’Ivorie with four number 9s (excluding wingers). The safe place will be to head to Abidjan with five men who are able to play across the attacking lines.

Even Osimhen, as observed in recent Napooi games is making himself a valueble asset tucking in at the right side of the attack in some situations.

 


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