Where Eagles dare!!
So we got knocked out from the group stages of the Russia 2018 world cup yesterday and to be fair it was more painful than I expected.
In my opinion a combination of missed chances and in-experience were the main culprit for our exit, not our performance.
The game itself was a very tense affair, both sides played with passion and caution as expected and both sides gave mutual respect to their opposition. I had no problem with the starting line-up (except maybe Ighalo should have not played at all, and Iwobi should have been drafted in for Iheanacho at half time instead).
I think the coach again got it right this time and you could see Mikel Obi owning that role and playing fantastically in front of the defence, pinging the ball with attacking intent when we needed to drive forward and distributing it properly when we needed to stay calm. Overall we gave Argentina a hard time and won most of the midfield battles.
Messi’s goal was laced with pure class, any football fan in the world would appreciate the manner he controlled and executed it, and after all he is only arguably the best player in the world bar one other fellow.
However you have to give the passer of the ball some credit too, Ever Banega (a player we do not have his kind) did that all day in the middle. I think they quickly figured out that they were not going to win the physical battle so they focused on creative play and as the game continued, and that was my biggest fear, knowing that even when we scored and it was 1-1 you knew somewhere inside of you that we simply could not match their creativity and technical ability, so that means a goal for Argentina could very well be in the making at any point in time during the game and boy did it come at the very wrong time. Anyhow we look at it, we were out done by two very technical world class goals, our experience in stopping those kind of goals I believe is still work in progress and boils down to game management.
I will not like to duel on missed chances, rather I will focus on game management which I hinted on from the first game, we really need to stick with what we do best and either be consistent with it in view of mastering our style of play, or we just simply need to be able to adjust our game plan in-play, the latter is something that will take years to perfect.
So at 1-1 we were still in the game and still in the world cup, 10mins to go we were still in there, then something happen in the 86th minute that would change our Russia 2018 football history. If you recall after the Croatia game I mentioned that we need to stick with power and pace not flair. From 80mins we seem to be comfortable, relaxed and began trying some tricks and fancy stuff, we gave away the ball twice and Argentina capitalised on that, it was a warning sign.
We held on but didn’t seem to learn. So when we lost the ball again in the 85th minute and it found its way to a free player who whipped it in from the left, I was not a surprised to see Rojo’s volley go in simply because one thing Argentina did all night was that they simply focused on wanting to win the game based on their technical mastery on the ball.
In the end we did give a decent account of ourselves.
Starting 11 Player Rating:
Etebo 7/10: Again was very instrumental in keeping the score line decent and should be very proud of himself, he gave Messi a hard time and his power and energy remains admirable.
Ndidi 8/10: Was very solid as well and gave Banega a tough time, he man marked and tracked down the ball with absolute precision, almost like an invisible wall, nothing passed through at least on the ground.
Balogun 7/10: Another top performance from the defender, my only concern during the game was that he is not as vocal as he ought to be, add a little vocal leadership to his game and we are looking at a potential Nigerian captain
Troost-Ekong 6/10: Did well again but he should have done better defensively especially for the Rojo’s goal, as he was literally jogging towards Rojo as opposed to throwing his body in there to stop the volley. Its basic defending stuff but we go again and learn.
Idowu 7/10: A very good performance from him but experience got the better of him when he left his man free allowing Mercado to whip that costly ball in for the 2nd goal.
Omeruo 7/10: Kept it tidy again all day, did get caught out while trying to pull out some unnecessary trick but I think he is growing to be a top player considering the opposition we faced today
Moses 7/10: For some reason Moses held back a little bit on the day, his penalty was as cool as they come and I think he can offer more with his pace and ability. He seem to fade out during the later part of the match and struggled with tracking back occasionally
Mikel 8/10: Arguably the best display I have seen him in that role, his movement and distribution of the ball was near perfect today, he did not deserve to be on the losing team based on his tenacity on the day.
Iheanacho 6/10: Almost the same problem he had while at Man City and currently in Leicester, he can very be indecisive when on the ball and in big games that will be exhibit for all to see. Should have done better off the ball, as he caught a lonely figure not to bothered about tracking back often
Musa 6.5 /10: He did put himself around but not as effective as one would have expected, I did think he will score so I was a bit disappointed, but I think he remains a constant threat to any defence in the world and probably just had one of those days
Uzoho 7/10: Besides the goals considered he was absolutely amazing in goal, pulled out some world class saves especially one noticeable from Messi’s early free kick. I personally think he is a top goalie and deserve his praise.
In the end, quality over in-experience won the game, but take nothing away from the performance from the super eagles, because collectively, they gave what they had 100% to a wounded Argentina team who even had their god of football Maradonna in the stadium screaming prayers to his most high in his own unique way. They were prepared to play, prepared to win, prepared to create, sadly we were ill-prepared to hang on to a draw.
Going forward we can definitely be proud and build from this, again game management is a thing that must to introduced and indoctrinated into our players, but of course this takes time.
Well done Super Eagles….continue to soar to great lofty heights.