What we learned from the Super Eagles double-header against Sierra Leone

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It has been almost a week since the last international break, but the ripple effects of Nigeria’s poor results against Sierra Leone are still being felt.

Nigeria’s quest for a ticket to the 2021 African Cup of Nations is still on course, but the Super Eagles will have to wait a little bit longer to confirm their place in Cameroon, no thanks to those disappointing performances in their qualifying double-header against Sierra Leone. 

The Eagles were rudderless and lackluster, managing to exacerbate the growing feeling of discontent among Nigerian fans. 

Days after surrendering a four-goal lead against the Leone Stars in Benin City, Gernot Rohr’s men laboured to a barren draw in the reverse fixture in Freetown.

How a team ranked 120th in the world fought their way back from four-goals down to earn a 4-4 draw remains a bit of a mystery to Nigerian football followers. The only group smiling were the betting sites in Nigeria, who must have raked in plenty of money from the shock result in Benue.

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Safe to assume that disgruntled Nigerian punters will not be backing the Eagles again anytime soon!

The outcome of the matches against Sierra Leone was a bitter pill to swallow and as expected, the manager and the entire squad have come under intense criticism.

Here are five things we learned from the international break:

1. The Eagles’ goalkeeping problems continue

The goalkeeping position has been a problematic position for the Eagles in recent years, and on the evidence of the matches against Sierra Leone, we are no closer to finding a solution to that conundrum. 

Maduka Okoye has shipped six goals in his last three games for Nigeria, and has generally lacked control of his area. The goalie didn’t inspire any confidence against Sierra Leone; and often looked like an accident waiting to happen.

Admittedly, Okoye is still very young, and goalkeepers tend to get a lot better with age and experience, but he must improve very quickly if he is to continue in that No. 1 role. 

2. Kevin Akpoguma is OK, but he is not a right-back

Despite Gernot Rohr’s arguments to the contrary, Kevin Akpoguma is not really a right back, is he? 

Rohr is sold on the idea of playing Akpoguma at right-back because of his height and of what he’s “seen” of him at Hoffenheim, but he is on his own on that one!.

The player, who normally plays in the center of the defence for his club, Hoffenheim, was deployed at right back in both matches against Sierra Leone, and frankly, he looked like a fish out of water.

The decision to play Akpoguma out of position was particularly bizarre because the manager had the option of starting proper right backs, Tyrone Ebuehi and Ola Aina, but he chose to leave both players on the bench.

3. Paul Onuachu has no future under Rohr

Paul Onuachu isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but his situation has been made even worse by his manager’s apparent lack of faith in him.

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With Victor Osimhen out of the second leg in Freetown, many thought Onuachu was going to get the nod from the start, but the striker didn’t get a look in.

Rohr has stated that his team won’t adapt to Onuachu’sstyle; rather, he told the Genk man to tweak his game to suit the team. That is very unlikely to happen. 

Onuachu’s strength is in the air, and except we are ready to go aerial and improve our crossing, he will not make any headway in this Eagles’ team. 

4. Gernot Rohr is averse to change

Gernot Rohr is set in his ways and he has proved this time and over again. 

The German tactician has stuck with his own ideas, even when they are clearly not working. Case in point, he has kept faith with the core of the team who are not exactly delivering at the expense of others who have shown better form.

Another example is the 4-3-3 formation that he always deploys even when the players at his disposal cannot execute the system perfectly. The results of our last four games have made this clear, but Rohr is adamant and sticking to his guns.

5. Gernot Rohr’s job is on the line

The Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare has been critical of Gernot Rohr lately, questioning the competence of the Eagles coach.

After the first leg against Sierra Leone in Benin, the minister hinted that there was going to be an inquiry into the performance of the team. Since then he’s been more overt with his dissatisfaction with Rohr’s work. He called out the German on Twitter after the second leg, saying Nigerian football deserves better. In his words, “the needful will be done”. 

President of the Nigeria Football Federation, AmajuPinnick has offered Rohr some sort of reassurance, stating that the Federation cannot afford to sack the manager, but these are perilous times for the German.

If the Eagles continue to falter, pressure will keep mounting, and NFF will have no option but to part ways with Rohr.

 

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