The Super Eagles got a scare and conceded early against Benin Republic, but two goals, one in each half ensured it was Nigeria that won after ninety minutes.
The Beninese scored early, very early in the game and that could have been able to unsettle the Super Eagles who showed character to draw level and then go ahead to win.
I picked out five glorious lessons that Nigerians should have learned from the game and I have put them out here.
Victor Osimhen is a beast and very dirty
On face value, one would wonder why Osimhen is said (by me) to be very dirty but watch him again. The young man means business and it shows in his play. No time for niceties, he just wants to go forward and score.
He reminds me of Luis Suarez at Liverpool. Always ready to gets stuck in as soon as possible and probably the dirtiest player on the pitch because, from the get-go, he is upfront contending with defenders, wanting to score.
I see Osimhen in the same light.
If it would be possible to check, Osimhen may just be the dirtiest Super Eagles player on the pitch because he is not afraid to get in the dirt just to get a goal. He runs at defenders, dives in and out of tackles, takes on markers, shoots well with both feet and does well with his head too.
Osimhen’s penalty equalizer was just scant consolation for a Man of the Match performance. In Osimhen, I believe Nigeria has found that long-sought-after replacement for Rashidi Yekini who will not just be a goal poacher, but a team player. No, his goals have not started raining in for the national team, and yes it is too early to compare him to the legend, Yekini, but it is not difficult to see the future, is it?
Daniel Akpeyi does not deserve the negative feedback he gets
Daniel Akpeyi played the game, every minute of it and conceded one goal which was due to poor defending or lack of concentration (As Nigeria League coaches would say).
Overall, there was nothing scandalous about his performance, though he didn’t exactly set the house on fire.
Truth is that he wasn’t tested as much as a goalkeeper should in Wednesday’s match yet he still got flak from fans, especially on social media.
I believe Daniel Akpeyi is currently Nigeria’s number one goalkeeper and he should be accorded due respect. He is the first-choice goalkeeper for Kaizer Chiefs and he puts up top performances weekly in the Premier Soccer League. Nigerians should relax a bit. Akpeyi will come through, eventually.
Joe Aribo is the truth
Joseph Ayodele Aribo is simply the truth. No doubt about this. From his first touch in his debut against Ukraine, to his goal against the same side and the one against Brazil, it was clear to see that Nigeria had found a gem.
He is still rough at the edges and may still need to understand Africa football and how it is played, but for a young player who has just three caps, he has shown is may just be a mainstay in the team.
His passes are sublime, his footwork is as good as it gets and he has shown in three games that he is here to stay as the Super Eagles playmaker.
He held down the midfield and like a trojan he was doing the business with deft passes, movement and shots on target. He played what Nigerians would call “Don’t dirty me football” in local parlance which means clean, neat and minimum contact football. He would need to get more stuck in as he continues to face the fact that he will be playing gritty African football in Africa.
Aribo gets a 7+ for his performance against Benin on Wednesday.
Samuel Kalu and Chukwueze are crazy
The two Samuels in the team, Kalu are Chukwueze are completely crazy fellows who the Beninoise will not forget in a lifetime.
It would always be heartwarming and confidence-boosting for the away team to score early in a game, but as soon as they did, the two Samuels turned the heat on them.
For both players, it was all about taking on players, cut-ins, through passes, shots at goal and on target etc. The squirrels were under siege and it would only be a matter of time before they would concede, which they did with that late penalty in the first half.
Kalu and Chukwueze were not wasteful and did not play to the gallery. They also did not overly showboat. They just did the business which was to run their opponents ragged, tire the out as the onslaught continued.
If there can be said to be any downside in the game of these two it would be the fact that they do not cross the ball much. Nigerian football has been famed to be structured on wing play which involves crosses to the box. Many a great Nigerian striker scored goals via crosses into the box- Rashidi Yekini, Samson Siasia, Yakubu Aiyegbeni and going further back, the likes of Ifeanyi Onyedika and Thompson Usiyen.
This may be the singular reason that Paul Onuachu is yet to excel in the Super Eagles despite his club form in Europe. The crosses hardly get in for him. Between Chukwueze and Samuel Kalu, the Eagles have two fiery wingers than can burn the grass on any pitch. Think about Adokiye Amiesimaka and Segun Odegbami and you have what Samuel Chukwueze and Samuel Kalu can do.
The Super Eagles midfield is lit
There was a time, just recently that Nigerians feared for the midfield of the team.
It was John Mikel Obi and Ogenyi Onazi running the show at that time with a young, very young Wilfred Ndidi coming up the ranks. Mikel Agu would be a substitute in case of fatigue or injury, then Oghenekaro Etebo came into the picture with Onazi stepping aside.
However, it seems the whole dynamic has changed recently as the midfield is these days seeming like the Eagles’ strongest point.
In the game against Benin, it was Wilfred Ndidi, Joe Aribo and Alex Iwobi that started in midfield. Think of the fact that Oghenekaro Etebo is just coming fresh out of injury and he is almost a sure starter when fit. Also, think of the fact that the country is making plans to bring in Eberechi Eze to the team.
While Ndidi and Etebo will sit back and ward off enemy attacks into the defence of the team, in an ideal 4-3-3 which Rohr would naturally play, he will then have to pick between Aribo and Iwobi as his offensive mad, spoiled for choice.
Nigerian football is at a point where most of the talent with Nigerian background blossomed at about the same time, but whether the Super Eagles have the kind of coaches that can nurture this team to continental and world-beaters is another matter entirely.