Congratulations Super Eagles! It’s not news again that the NPFL stars have progressed to the quarter-final of the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Morocco surpassing the last edition performance in Rwanda.
Despite starting slowly against Rwanda on matchday one with a barren score-line, Nigeria went unbeaten in three group games, won two matches against Libya and Equatorial Guinea, scored four goals and conceded one.
Nigeria failed to qualify for CHAN in 2010 and 2012 respectively, the team made their debut in 2014 under late Stephen Keshi in South Africa.
Keshi’s team finished with the Bronze medal in their debut tournament. 2016 edition in Rwanda under Sunday Oliseh was poor as the team crashed out from the group stages.
After three matches in the group stages in Morocco, these are the 12 things
www.naijafootballplus.com correspondent ADEPOJU TOBI learnt about the Super
Eagles ahead of the quarter-final match against Angola in Tangier this weekend.
Nigeria kept two clean sheets in the first two games and conceded against Equatorial Guinea. Stephen Eze was voted ‘Man of the Match’ against Libya and the back-four have been impressive, Salisu has kept faith with the quartet of Osas Okoro, Eze, Orji Kalu and Daniel Itodo in the three matches, the defence set up have been one of the most consistent pairing in the tournament.
Okoro assisted the equalizer Tony Okpotu scored against Equatorial Guinea, Orji’s calmness and clinical tackles has earned him a lot of respect in the championship.
Overall, Super Eagles have got a solid
defence and they are capable of competing against tougher opponent.
*EMEKA ATULOMA A DELIGHT TO WATCH:*
Atuloma has justified the coach’s decision as the perfect replacement for Aremu Afeez who left the team for Norway this January.
There was a lot of panic when Aremu left to Europe, with the question about who would be his replacement?, Salisu Yusuf invited Atuloma and the Rivers United midfielder
has been a delight to watch in Morocco.
He’s workaholic attitude coupled with his timing tackles, gives protection to the defence and his passes are superb.
He helped the team a lot when building up play from the back.
*SUNDAY FALEYE AND FEW OTHERS NEEDS NEW BOOT *
This is on a lighter note but a serious situation, Faleye has been brilliant in the tournament but often times he slips off the ball when attacking.
A situation that ruined Super Eagles chances on several occasions, we have also seen several players fell off the ball. What is
wrong with the guys?, I heard some of the player’s boots are bad and not suitable for grass pitches, compared to the artificial pitches in Nigeria.
Faleye had to change his boot before he scored the winner against Libya.
Like Mourinho insinuated for Romelu Lukaku, the guys in Morocco needs new
boot to excel from the next round. Smile!
*EMEKA OGBUH MUST STEP UP*
The Rivers United winger must step up his performance, he did well against Rwanda but he was below average against Libya and Equatorial Guinea. He romances the ball too much and his final crosses are poor, he’s one of the most experienced players in the squad and he must show up to the party in
Morocco and help the team excel. It’s very important he raises his performance from the next round and help the team in the attack.
*DAYO OJO AHEAD OF RABIU ALI*
Salisu Yusuf will be having a positive headache with the performance of Ojo
in two matches, it’s obvious the Super Eagles coach had mutual respect and
he believed in Ali’s experience and quality.
Ojo was introduced in the second half against Libya and his superb performance earned him a start against Equatorial Guinea, he capped the day with a beautiful and important goal.
Salisu tried playing Ojo and Ali together for about 20 minutes in Agadir but realised both players will not offer the team much defensively, and when the opponents are dominating, the pressure might be too much on Atuloma.
The coach will likely stick to one of them against a physical Angola side, Ojo has proven he’s a better option than the ageing Ali in the tournament.
*IKECHUKWU EZENWA NOT TESTED YET*
Ezenwa hasn’t been tested much in the tournament, but his maturity and leadership quality has been a great asset to the team.
He’s got a compact defence which has done well to protect his goal-line. Only Equatorial
Guinea was able to beat Ezenwa and end his clean sheet run. The truth is that he hasn’t been tested yet in the championship, Ezenwa should get ready for big games from the next round. Gernot Rohr is also in and out of Morocco monitoring Ezenwa progress ahead of the World Cup.
*PETER ENEJI NEEDED, HE MUST BE FIT: *
Salisu Yusuf revealed that the Plateau United winger is injured, the coach actually took him to the tournament injured and hoped he would be fit before the third game.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t make the third game. Eneji broke into the team with his excellent performance in Ghana during the
WAFU Cup of Nations. The team is short of options in the attack and with the inconsistent performance from Ogbuh, Eneji must be fit and play some part in the knock-out round. Salisu will rely much on Eneji’s quality to survive the next hurdle, hopefully the team doctor will make him ready for
selection against Angola.
*DANIEL ITODO MUST IMPROVE:*
The Plateau United left-back must improve on his poor final passes, apart from his long-throws which the team hasn’t benefited anything positive from, Itodo must work very hard to improve his performance.
He’s yet to command respect among fans and prove he’s better than Chima Akas. With
Ogbuh and Faleye running through the flanks, Itodo must raise his game to
compliment the duo efforts. This is what we witnessed when Okoro assisted Okpotu’s equalizer, Itodo will be a great asset if he improve on his crosses and final passes.
*MORE IS EXPECTED FROM IFEANYI IFEANYI:*
Akwa United’s midfielder Ifeanyi Ifeanyi hasn’t meet up with the fans expectation in the tournament. The box-to-box midfielder has struggled to hit top form in the tournament. The fans are still expecting the former MFM FC midfielder to replicate his great form at Akwa United last season, he
might likely lose his starting shirt from the next round if he struggles to impress.
*A RELIEF FOR TONY OKPOTU*
The NPFL top scorer has been the most criticized player in Morocco, a relief
for him as he scored the important equalizer against Equatorial Guinea with a beautiful header. Enyimba International forward Ibrahim Mustapha has done pretty well as a substitute, but Okpotu’s experience gives him an edge. Salisu Yusuf has stated clearly that Okpotu is the most experienced striker in the squad. Okpotu looks like a slow starter in competition and he will get better in the competition, the same process in Ghana and the NPFL Invitational Tournament.
*SALISU YUSUF WITH A BRILLIANT PRESSER:*
No dulling moments in Morocco with Super Eagles chief coach Salisu Yusuf during press conferences, his responses are professional and matured. In 2016, journalists had rough moments with Sunday Oliseh’s responses. Salisu has responded quietly to all intimidating questions from the media and he has avoided making comments that would indict the Federation or bring commotion to the camp, compared to what we had two years ago. He smiles to
almost all questions before replying.
*FANS IN TANGIER LOVES SUPER EAGLES:*
The fans in Tangier are in love with the Super Eagles, there is a stand with impressive numbers supporting the Super Eagles with the Nigerian flag.
I will walk down to the side of the stadium and engage the fans against Angola, I think we had few Nigerians among them but the fans have been massive with huge support for the Super Eagles. Tangier looks like a home for the team!