Yesterday, the Nigerian under 23 team nicknamed “The Dream Team” kicked off their quest for qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics football event got off to a poor start after they were stunned by Libya’s U23 team 2-0 in Tunisia.
Naijafootballplus.com x-rays the team in a bid to identify what went wrong on the night.
Inexperience or Early Days?
Early in February, Imama Amapakabo, who had been an assistant to the Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr, was announced as the new handler of the Under 23 side. It was his first job as the head of a national team after being an assistant to the suspended Salisu Yusuf for Nigeria’s football team B and he was charged with getting a qualification ticket for the team for a tournament they have enjoyed all forms of success.
The coach who had only won the Nigeria Professional Football League title as a coach, quickly scouted for his players and invited a perfect mix of both home and foreign based players for the qualifying campaign. Among the invited were the trio of Taiwo Awoniyi, Samuel Chukwueze and Kelechi Nwakali who have been touted as the future of the Super Eagles and the impressive Ebube Duru among a host of other bright prospects but with only a few days of training together, they fell to an amazing Libya side that knew their strengths and maximized it.
Outwitted or Unlucky?
On the evening, the Libyans employed a system that weaker teams have tested and proved that it works when executed efficiently, Counterattacking Football. The Libyans were quick on the counter especially when they noticed that breaking the Nigerian talented midfield was between impossible and minimal if they keep trying to meet up to them at their game. Coach Imama’s defenders had little chances of matching up to the pace of their opponents on the counters and also left spaces for them to run in and punish them.
Besides these strengths over our weaknesses, the Nigerian brilliant attack were unlucky to get goals of their own when they had their chances as they kept tormenting their organized opponents who were dogged in their performance on the night. The Libyans seemed to be luckier with their chances and they had the luxury of a number advantage after the Nigerian goalkeeper saw red for handling the ball outside his area.
Much Ado About Nothing?
It is not unusual for football fans in Nigeria to panic whenever any of their teams fail to record a victory irrespective of the quality of the opposition or the amount of work put into preparations prior to the defeat. As expected, everyone has raised an eyebrow at the result but truth is that it might actually amount to nothing if the team overturn the deficit which is not impossible.
It is a team of class acts and they have lots of talent and have a good amount of experience to overturn the deficit against the Libyans in Asaba on Monday. Maybe the panic is too early and is likely to put the team under undue pressure and limit their performance in the return leg.
With all these said, it is pertinent to note that while it appears to be a mountain to climb for the U23 side, it is not an insurmountable disappointment and with the quality available in the team both at the bench and on the field of play, the Libyans who will definitely come with antics-laced game plan will be in for a different ball game.