Contribution by Ignatius Chukw/Football analyst
Nigeria placed itself as one of the teams around the world that won their pre-Russia friendlies this weekend, and this speaks volumes. The Super Eagles however fell within the lean scorers, winning with one goal which came from penalty kick. Brazil posted the highest (3-0) against host nation, Russia, while Aregentina defeated Italy 2-0. Most others won by a lone goal or played 1-1.
Nigeria does not have a world class hitman. For Moses who is a defender in Chalsea to be the major hope is a worry. Ighalo is good but he is not in the class of other world terrors such as Nyemar, Messi, Ronaldo, Kane, Vardy, Lawandowski, Sallah, Mane, etc. It is now left to system of play, not personality, to get the goals in the world cup. The coach has to craft a system that puts our attackers in scoring positions from time to time.
Let them train on clinical finishing to convert the few chances they may get.
Power game is still Nigeria’s best chance. What the team lacks in world class talents it can make up with tireless running and physical game without causing numerous cards. Most of the teams around the world fear Nigeria and Africa over energy. They however bank on our lack of organization. Can the coach build on this and teach them how to tackle quick and neat to avoid cards?
In this regard, the principle of first-to-the-ball and quick-to-the-ball should be adopted to give them control of the midfield and reduce danger from opponents. Let accurate passes and less holding on the ball be perfected.
For the goalkeeper, indecision is dangerous in the world cup. In a year that Nigeria’s preparation is for once stable, the absence of a world class goalkeeper is worrisome. Our best are unfit or sick; our weak ones are fit. It is a big dilemma to any coach. If Uzoho is to be the number one, he needs quick coaching by big keepers on how to decide and what to decide for. It can be done. Nigeria can rush help to him in Spain and also when he comes to camp. He is likely to get injured early in the tournament and the campaign may crash due to absence of a stable substitute. Time to act is now.
He has however shown that he has hearts and can face the big boys that would try him, Messi, Lawandowski, etc.
If Moses is to attack, let the Coach play loaded midfield that can cover in the defence. Already, experts are calling attention to the defence and one of the defenders is going into attack. It is the midfield that would have to be very strong and mobile to support an average attack and weak defence. A 4-man midfield should be it; mobile, fast, decisive, tireless. The team should not play more than two holders and they must not be in the middle. Let the middle be crunchy but holders can be at the left and right to decide the pace. It is holding in the mid that ruins Arsenal.
The power of this team is in stability, good coaching, and tidy organization. Let them hold fast to these and take their chances.