Following the 1-1 draw between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Pharaohs of Egypt in an Africa Cup of Nations on Friday in Kaduna, we take a look at five of the key things learnt in the encounter ahead of the return leg on Tuesday.
- Defence remains a problem
Even though they conceded just one goal in the game, the manner in which they conceded probably calls for an inquest. There were signs of a lack of coordination between the defenders, especially the centre backs. Efe Ambrose made some impressive runs forward from deep, but also gave the ball away too cheaply and looked jittery without it. There was also the occasional loss of concentration before Mohammed Salah’s goal and you wonder what would have happened if they Pharaohs had attacked more.
- Siasia’s teams must see games through
There was a feeling of déjà vu when Mohammed Salah scored the equalizer for Egypt in stoppage time of the game. It reminded everyone who saw the game of the 2012 Africa cup of Nations qualifier against Guinea in Abuja – a 2-2 draw – which prevented Nigeria from participating at the 2012 AFCON. The Super Eagles led 2-1 with minutes left and needed to close shop but attacked instead, and the Guineans countered and capitalized. There were also similar scenes at the last Under-23 AFCON in Senegal.
- Super Eagles still don’t play to Ighalo’s strengths
Odion Ighalo was once again left isolated up-front in the game as there was only a handful of direct passes to him. As much as the team tried to string passes together, they always opted for the long ball when in the final third, and made too many sideways passes that couldn’t find the Watford striker. As a result, it was easy for the Egyptian defence to keep him at bay, thereby stifling one of Nigeria’s attacking outlets.
- Mikel needs a midfield partner, but not Etebo
Oghenekaro Etebo had a good game on his full debut and deserved the man-of-the-match award, but his paring with John Obi Mikel in a central midfield role doesn’t suit his style, and certainly won’t offer much assistance to Mikel and protection to the back four. He would have been far more effective if he had played directly behind Ighalo, as was evident the times he surged forward, and eventually getting Nigeria’s goal. Perhaps Azubuike Okechukwu will do a better job in that role when faced with a more attacking Egyptian side in the return leg as expected.
- Siasia should get the Super Eagles job full time no matter what happens
One thing that is synonymous with most Samson Siasia teams is that they hardly play boring football and while it wasn’t vintage Super Eagles on Friday evening, there were signs he could get them there. While his tactics may be seen as ultra-attacking and which somewhat affects the defensive shape of his teams, it is however clear that his teams will score goals. He probably just needs to work a system that helps his team keep a better defensive shape and balance when not with the ball.
Thumbs Down: To the Kaduna State Government for failing to organize better security for effective crowd control after throwing the gates to the stadium open for the game. It was well obvious there would be a large turnout of fans for the game and one would have expected the state government to have a better crowd control mechanism in place. There were well over 40,000 people at the 25,000 capacity stadium and some had to stand on the tracks, while others sat on the scoreboard and on the floodlights. One hopes the Egyptians don’t knock Nigeria out technical grounds.