By Professor Chuka Onwumechili
Nigeria has announced its 30-man list as the World Cup preparation reached fever pitch. On that list are several forwards on whom Nigeria will look to for goals. But also missing from the list are forwards that some fans hoped would have received a chance to be at the World Cup. In this piece we take a hard look at goal scoring productivity of these players when playing in Nigeria’s colors.
The table below compares the players on number of goals scored, goal ratio per game, and average minutes per game under four different contexts: (a) all games, (b) competitive games, ( c) friendlies, and (d) Last five games played for Nigeria.
Take-Home Points From Data
Here are quick points on the data:
1. Shola Amoebi and Uche Nwofor may have played few games but they have made them count as per goal scoring with very low number of minutes per game.
2. In competitive games, both Emenike and Victor Moses have been most productive. However, it is important to asterisk Victor Moses’ production as it is inflated with penalty kick conversions. Martins and Uche were also productive goal scorers but produced very little in their last five appearances for Nigeria.
3. Odemwingie and Obasi were much hyped and deservedly because of their recent club forms. However, both have been very poor in front of goal for Nigeria even when playing significant minutes. So also has Ahmed Musa in spite of significant minutes played.
4. Brown Ideye, much maligned forward, has actually a better goal per game than Ahmed Musa, Chinedu Obasi, and Osaze Odemwingie! However, his scoring ratio in competitive games, alone, has been abysmal.
Important Factors to Consider
Of course, the data take-home points have been provided in the previous paragraph. However, it is important to consider several factors that may have affected the data. These factors are briefly discussed below.
Competitive v Non-competitive Games
For some, it matters whether the goalscoring was in competitive games and not international friendlies. This may explain fan attitude towards Brown Ideye who has scored most of his goal in international friendlies. But then, fans are not gushing about Nnamdi Oduamadi whose goals have come in competitive games! Well, he is the aberration because several other forwards have actually better goalscoring averages in competitive games compared to friendlies. That list includes Emenike, Moses, Odemwingie, Musa, and Ike Uche.
Not all players have the luxury of playing lots of minutes in games and this obviously negatively impact their goal scoring opportunities. Thus, it is important to take minutes played into consideration. Most players with at least 60 minutes on the field have scored at a clip of .30 or more per game. The only exceptions are Ahmed Musa, Osaze Odemwingie and Chinedu Obasi whose output was far below expectation even when playing over 60 minutes for Nigeria. That information is available on the data table.
Last Five (5) Games
We also analyzed the last five games played for Nigeria by each forward. This statistic is meaningful when considered jointly with minutes per game for each player. This explains Ike Uche’s poor output as he has only played about 37 minutes per game in his last five appearances. Compare this to Osaze Odemwingie and Ahmed Musa who both averaged over 60 minutes per game in their last five and yet produced no goals. On the other hand, Ideye has actually upped his average scoring in spite of playing only 38 minutes per game in his last five appearances.
Advanced Positions on the Field
Not all the players are equally positioned to score a lot of goals. For instance, the centrally advanced players often have advantages over forwards in wide areas in the Nigerian system. Often in that system, the wide forwards are in supporting positions to the centrally positioned forward. However, one must note that in Nigeria’s system, players often interchange positions during the game and, thus, goal scoring opportunities are spread out.
One thing is clear, it is easy to lambast some of Nigeria’s forwards without the benefit of looking at the data. The data provided above somewhat vindicates the likes of Brown Ideye whose productivity is actually better than many fans think. Sure most of that have come in noncompetitive games, but his output per minutes played should also be instructive. On the other hand, several of the much hyped players have not exactly been overwhelming in terms of goalscoring productivity in spite of significant minutes on the field. This is not to claim that Ideye should automatically be a shoo-in as a starter simply based on goal scoring. It is important to acknowledge that there are other areas of productivity expected from the players.
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This piece did not take into account, Nigeria’s games against Scotland, Greece and the USA
Culled from www.eaglecity.com