Nigeria’s Super Eagles did not disappoint against Zimbabwe in their farewell friendly game in Asaba on Saturday.
As usual, it was a bore-fest and Nigeria found it difficult to break their stubborn opponents.
After painstakingly watching the game, I managed to pick out 5 things fans of the team should be worried about as the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations is set to kick off in Egypt
No Economy of movement
The economy of movement is simply a systematic approach to playing football or any team sport that helps reduce fatigue and unnecessary movement on the pitch.
Every time you watch the Super Eagles play, you cannot help but notice the amount of unnecessary running the players do.
The difference between the North Africans, the South Africans and the Nigerians is that the Super Eagles players believe in outpacing their markers whenever they have the ball. And the wingers, the center forward and the midfielders, especially Oghenekaro Etebo are the biggest culprits. The one player in the team who has a good economy of movement though is John Mikel Obi who would rather pass the ball, maintain the midfield shape than just make a dash forward.
Good economy of movement will make the difference when a knockout game goes into extra time and you need legs to continue. It will make a difference when a change in weather takes its toll on the team.
But do the players know? Or are they just stubborn with their individual styles?
The play was still uninspiring
It was just a friendly match, many will say… And it is very possible that the primary aim of the game was not to win as such, but it would not have been to bore us to death either.
The play of the Super Eagles has not been inspiring and this must be worrisome for the coaches and the fans.
The mandate in Egypt is not to play entertaining football, but we can at least do it with some style and panache. The Eagles were slow out of their back and when they attacked, it did not seem like a team effort rather each individual auditioning for a bigger role by showing of personal skills.
How did the Olympic team do it against Libya at the same venue in March?
Still cannot break down stubborn sides?
The Zimbabweans were stubborn and defended well. The Nigerians could not get in no matter how hard we knocked.
Unlocking stubborn defences is one thing Gernot Rohr has to perfect between now and when the AFCON begins.
The teams in Nigeria’s group (Burundi, Guinea and Madagascar) are not those who necessarily think they stand a chance to win against the Eagles so it will be safer for them to “park the bus” and hope to leave with a point.
The question now is whether the Eagles can unlock a stubborn defence? After games against Egypt and Zimbabwe, I seriously doubt that.
John Mikel Obi is back, but?
Captain fantastic, John Mikel Obi is back in the team and this should naturally excite the natives, but has it?
Mikel is not exactly a spring chicken and his return exactly adds no energy to the team.
He has his qualities- experience, ability to slow the game, especially if the Eagles come against faster and more enterprising opponents, his defence-splitting passes, which come few and far between though and most of all, his presence on the pitch.
Watching the Eagles against Zimbabwe on Saturday did not feel as though the presence of Mikel changed much. The Eagles were still slow, uninspiring and unable to break down a stubborn opponent.
Was it necessary to bring him back? Certainly! How much of a difference that makes from the team that qualified for the AFCON to the one going to Egypt will be discussed after the Cup final.
Zimbabwe troubled Nigeria whenever they wanted to
The Zimbabweans were good in fits and starts. They defended well and played off the counter.
The thing is more often than not, they found a somewhat easy passage whenever they went forward. Profligacy was their major bane and again Leon Balogun stood tall when called into action.
The Eagles kept a clean sheet but had it been a competitive game or better opponent, maybe the story would have been different.