Victor Osimhen celebrates one of his goals on Monday
After
Nigeria’s U23 national team beat Libya 4-0 in Asaba on Monday, it
would be important to go through seven talking points from the game
that contributed to the overall play of the team and result.
1. Kelechi Nwakali was
inspirational
The
last time Nigerians watched Kelechi Nwakali play in green for the
National Team was just before the World Cup in 2018 for the Team B
against a holidaying Atletico Madrid side. He was inspirational on
the night pulling all the strings in midfield and ensuring the
forward men had enough of the ball. While that could be said to be a
performance against a team that had shut down for the season, the
game against Libya was a very important one for both sides. Nwakali
was on top of his game, doing what playmakers do to lift their teams.
He must have covered every blade of grass on the pitch that day,
controlling play, passing the ball, picking holes in the opponent’s
area and ensuring that the forward men had enough service all game
long. He would have to be tamed though as he also got carried away at times with his skill on the ball, but Nwakali was the real match
winner for the Eagles on the night.
2. The football on the
night was sublime
Imama’s style of football is different
The
National Teams are not supposed to play good football, especially
during qualifying races and this is the gospel according to coaches
of the various Nigerian National Teams.
The
reason for this had always been that the pitches were poor, the team
didn’t have enough time to train together and most of all that it was
difficult to play very well in Africa because of the robust and
direct football we play that may not allow for that. However, this
U23 team coached by Imama Amapakabo threw all that away with their
style of play. The pressing was high, the passing was consistent and
with a top level of accuracy. They also did not stop and resort to a
direct approach even when the goals did not come in early. It was a
style reminiscent of his Enugu Rangers team that won the Nigeria
Professional Football League in 2016. the Nigerian National Team can
actually play good football in qualifying games. Not we know this.
3. The front three of
Chukwueze, Osimhem, and Awoniyi is the future
Imama
Amapakabo threw in all his aces at the start of the game and for good
reason too. He needed to score three unreplied goals to win the game
outright and he had to put his best men forward. In Samuel Chukwueze,
Victor Osimhen and Taiwo Awoniyi, Imama had the best-attacking trio a
young Nigerian national team could boast off and it showed from their
performance in the game. As they ran at the hapless Libyans, sucking
life out of them with every attack, it became more and more obvious
that barring serious injuries and unfortunate loss of form, Nigerians
were watching the Super Eagles attacking trio for, maybe, 2021
AFCON and beyond. True to it, they got a lot of help from Kelechi
Nwakali, Gabriel Okechukwu and Orji Okonkwo who held the middle of
the pack and ensure they got balls at their feet. In Chukwueze was
an attacker, good with both feet, who packed a bullet when he has to
unleash one, with an eye for goal and can play on both wings; in
Osimhen was a deadly predator, same as in Awoniyi who was in the
shadows of Awoniyi on the night, though.
4. Super Eagles, why?
The
Super Eagles made us believe the pitch in Asaba was too poor to play
any good football in, but the National U23 team told us the pitch was playable. There are now no excuses as the Eagles must begin
to put in a good shift when next they play on that ground.
5. Osimhen is the truth
The truth
The
last time the Super Eagles got a hattrick in a game was Odion Ighalo
against Libya on October 13, 2018. Though this was not the Super
Eagles playing, it was great to see another hattrick and especially
the way he despatched the goals.
He
was a real assassin on the prowl. The first goal was a real poacher’s
effort. The Libyan goalkeeper spilled a free kick and Osimhen was the
first to latch in on it and BOOM! For the second goal, he put pressure
on the goalkeeper as a ball was crossed into the box. With the keeper
spilling the ball, he slotted home and for the third goal he found
space in the middle, took a step or two in and put the ball behind
the keeper. Osimhen is the truth. You can take that to the bank!
6. Sometimes hard luck is only hard luck when you stop trying
The
games started as though it would be a long day at the office. If
there were any signs that it would be a long day at the office, the
happenings on the pitch showed it.
In
the first half alone, three efforts hit the bar- two from free kicks
and one from open play, as well as countless saves made by the Libyan
goalkeeper, but heads did not drop as the players kept on pushing.
After 90 minutes, they had scored four goals.
7. NPFL players can do
well if you let them
Every
time a national team plays, this question must be answered and this
is certainly because of the raging debates on the location of players to
be invited to national teams. Three players from the home league
started the game- Etyboy Akpan from Akwa United, Valentine Ozonwofor
from Enyimba and Ebube Duru from Lobi Stars. It was a confident
performance from the back four, of course commandeered by Chidozie
Awaziem. On another day, the threesome may not have gotten a chance
to play because of the location of their clubs but on this day, the
did get the chance and left no one in doubt of their abilities.

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