This will be the first of my future countless analysis of the games involving our national football teams. This write up have become necessary at this all important time when Nigeria is about to begin another World Cup Qualification journey. First, let us take a look at Nigeria’s group, a group dubbed, the Group of Death.
The other three countries in the group are Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia. This is indeed a tough group as all the countries except Zambia have competed at the World Cup. Cameroon have failed to qualify for the World Cup in just two occasions since 1982, as they have represented Africa a record 7 times. Algeria has an appearance of 4, one short of Nigeria. Zambia being the only team that has not qualified for the big stage. However the latter cannot be push overs, having won the AFCON two years ago. And they would want to prove that they are not the weeping boys of the group especially as they start their campaign from their home soil.
The venue, Ndola, the third largest city in this Southern African country, will host this battle which have already started with fiery words from the Zambian camp suggesting that Nigerian coach, Gernot Rohr, is highly dependent on boys to prosecute this match, and that the Super Eagles lack the quality they were once known for. My postulation is the contrary. Let me explain why the young boys will be the ones to deliver and also, I will suggest various the formation we need to adopt to get our world cup campaign to a good start.
X-raying the Super Eagles list, Nigeria can boast of young but tested players who are capable of firing all cylinders tomorrow.
Alex, Iwobi, nephew of legendary Nigerian midfielder, Austin “Jay-Jay” Okocha, has proven in just two seasons for Arsenal, that he has the potential to grow into one of the most deadly forwards in the game. His teammate’s (Mesut Ozil) assessment of the player highlights how important he is to the Premiership team, and the giant contributions he is expected to make in the future for both club and country, calling him a blend of the retired dutch footballer, Edgar Davids, and his uncle, Okocha, strong on the ball, very good defensively, and a handful for defenders as well. Alex demonstrated this again during a scrimmage with Nigeria Premier League side, Plateau united, scoring twice in Super Eagles 3-0 win. Going by his current form, the ‘Chipolopolo’ as the Zambian national team are called, will definitely pay dearly should they consider his youthfulness for weakness.
This lad needs no introduction. He acquired work permit to play in the Premier league because Manchester City was able to prove that he meets the ‘special talent’ clause. He has scored at the highest stage, the European Champions League. He has seen it all, but still learning and understudying Sergio Aguero. He is the man to deliver the goods should the others fail to score for the Super Eagles, as he proved against Tanzania a month ago. He is one of the most versatile forwards in the team. He can play from either wings, behind strikers or as the marksman himself. There are so many options when you have Kelechi in the team. This boy will definitely make Gernot Rohr’s job easier. He is packed with deft touches and quality passes. He also has an eye for goal from a distance and a precise finisher at close range. Again, the Zambians must have a rethink as no player in their squad regardless of their age have played at the level Kelechi has played. Regarding him as just a boy in the encounter tomorrow, will be their greatest undoing.
This petit, crafty left winger can cause any defense confusion of all sorts. He can boast of European Champions League experience with Gent, and is definitely a World Cup material. He is expected to put Ahmed Musa in the sidelines in this game depending on what tactics the coach employs.
The Genk Defender turned Defensive midfielder, scored the best goal in Belgian Jupiler League, last season. He is versatile, as he can also play as a left wing back and in central defense. He will definitely be a problem for Zambia going by his versatility and doggedness.
Tactics and formations
It is widely reported in the papers that Rohr will adopt a 4-2-3-1 formation. With these players expected to start like this:
[media-credit name=”Credit | lineupbuilder.com” align=”aligncenter” width=”305″][/media-credit]
Who reveals his tactics on the pages of the newspaper before an encounter? Who does that? It is also said that Zambia plans to pack their midfield to counter our game plan. But I must say here that Nigeria has other options based on the players we have at our disposal. Now let’s consider my preferred formation for this encounter.
The 4-4-2 formation
On a sunny afternoon, with the temperature expected to be about 35 degrees celsius at the game venue, Nigeria will need to avoid too much running, play more conservatively and do lots of shooting at the early stages. I will rather play a cautious 4-4-2 as opposed to an attacking 4-4-2, especially in the first half. How, you may ask? With this player selection, consider this:[media-credit name=”Credit| lineupbuilder.com” align=”aligncenter” width=”312″][/media-credit]
This is cautious, because we have physical, versatile, and imposing midfielders, who posses defensive and holding capabilities. This way we can keep possession more and give our defenders more cover. But in the front, we have two youthful attackers who will not run out of steam easily, and have knack for creating something out of nothing. I will instruct Musa Muhammad to go upfront and launch crosses to the duo of Kelechi and Iwobi, while Onazi, who played as a right bank under the reigns of late Stephen Keshi, when we won the AFCON in 2013, act as a cover should Musa fail to track back quickly. Mikel also have the option of wandering forward when necessary or supporting defensively. Echiejile should remain behind and Ndidi do more of launching long range passes or trying his way to goal without going upfront. Iwobi can wander to the left flank when necessary and can also fall back and help defensively whenever the need be, which will be very unlikely, because this formation will give both Iheanacho and Iwobi freedom to roam upfront and try different tricks. Also, this formation will be hard for Zambia to crack, and will give them little or no opportunity to express themselves cohesively. If we can do this in the first half, I see us at least a goal or two up. And the game can be won as early as the first half because the Zambians will not be able to find a solution to counter this. Should they throw in more attackers in desperation later on, they would expose their rear to more damage.
Well that’s my kick on this matter. We wait for Rohr’s decisions tomorrow, and hope that the boys will fly gallantly regardless of the tactics he employs.
See you at match time, with live-commentary coverage.
What’s your kik? Any prediction?