Nigerians are enraged. The Super Eagles drew against Iran in a game most thought would be easy pickings for the African champions.
The blame game has started as is usual with Nigerian football but only one man should take the blame if there should be any and that man is Stephen Keshi
He picked the players
Keshi decided on his 23 man team to Brazil. He chose what he termed the best Nigeria had to offer and despite public outcry he exiled some players from the list; players Nigerians thought deserved to be in.
Then away from the 23 players picked for the World Cup, it seemed on Monday night that Keshi did not deploy his personnel the way they would have been best suited.
Right from Stephen Keshi’s early days as manager, he has favoured the 4-3-3. Yes he sometimes tweaks it to a 4-2-3-1 or sometimes 4-4-1-1 but it has basically been a 4-3-3.
But it was Iran Nigeria played on Monday, not Argentina or Spain, but Iran.
He deployed three Central midfielders with defensive tendencies in a game against a side that were only going to defend all game long.
The passing game in the early minutes was great and the Eagles were able to carve the Iranians open at times, but soon after they began to lump the balls in.
Without an Ameobi in the lineup, Emenike was too isolated for that tactic, but the team after the first 20 minutes reverted to route 1 football that was very ineffective.
My thought was that it you want to play possession football, you keep knocking the ball around until your opponents get frustrated but the Eagles failed to sustain their passing game.
John Mikel Obi was voted man of the match and the statistics said he completed the most passes in the game.
The number of passes Mikel completed did nothing to Nigeria’s cause because the Eagles failed to win.
Mikel was deployed as a deep lying playmaker but needed to be more upfront than he was.
Compared to Azeez, Mikel was more creative, could pass the ball better and would have been more of a threat if he played as an advanced play maker, especially in that first half.
The Eagles needed to put the Iranians under more pressure than they did in the first half but failed to.
As they game wore on the Iranians grew in confidence and Nigeria had Vincent Enyeama to thank or they would have had to chase the game.
Eagles needed force
Because they were the Iranians who showed Nigeria respect, the Eagles needed to be more forceful for long spells.
The Eagles needed to throw more men in attack while keeping the defence tight.
When Azeez was taken off for Odemwingie, the team seemingly played better because Ameobi who had moved to the center, forcing Emenike to drift right and Musa left now had Odemwingie closer to him which put more pressure on the Iranians.
That’s what Keshi should have started with, two men in the center of attack or one playing closely behind the point man.
Keshi is the head coach of the team and the buck stops at his table.
Just like he took the credit for the AFCON win and the World Cup qualification, he should take the flak if the team fail to perform.
Iran is Nigeria’s weakest opponent in the group and they came out unscathed. It’s time for Keshi to earn his wages and pull a rabbit out of his hat against the Bosnians or else Nigeria’s World Cup will be over by Saturday.