The Super Eagles of Nigerian regroup for the first time in almost a year to play two friendly games in this international break.
Gernot Rohr’s men lost 1-0 to Algeria on Friday, October 9 and played out a 1-1 draw with Tunisia on Tuesday, October 11, 2020.
These are five things we learnt from those games.
1. Leon Balogun shows his importance
A lot has changed in one year. The last time the Super Eagles of Nigeria were in action in November 2019, Leon Balogun was not in the squad.
While he wasn’t getting game time at Brighton, other central defenders were regular fixtures at their club.
It seemed his Super Eagle career was over at that time. Forward almost a year later, his career is back on track at Scottish side Rangers.
He showed how much has changed too on the pitch as he emerged the best Super Eagles player from both friendly games.
He was solid, played out well from the back and was clearly the leader on the pitch.
2. Iwobi shines
As it is in his club career, Alex Iwobi still divides opinions but this wasn’t the case in these two friendly games.
Despite Nigeria’s inability to dominate possession, Iwobi still tried his best to get the Super Eagles going in attack against Algeria. He was busy winning the ball and trying to circulate it as much and quick as possible.
Against Tunisia, he was even better. Playing in a withdrawn role, the Everton man showed a lot of dynamism. He helped with winning the ball and played some fine passes.
3. Semi Ajayi struggles in midfield
In one of Rohr’s most puzzling decisions, Semi Ajayi, a central defender by trade, played the defensive midfield role in both games and struggled in it.
While the jury is still out on his natural position, it wasn’t a surprise to see Ajayi fail to meet the demands of the role. He couldn’t read situations well and was caught several times out of position.
4. Zaidu Sanusi makes his point
While Jamilu Collins had not done badly as a left-back, the Super Eagles clearly needed an upgrade in that position and Zaidu Sanusi has stepped in.
He was one of the few bright spots on the very underwhelming night against Algeria. He kept Riyad Mahrez quiet in defence and impressed in attack as he bombed forward to link up with Samuel Kalu.
5. Rohr’s puzzling decisions
While a friendly game is meant to try out solutions the games against Algeria and Tunisia have left us with more questions all thanks to Rohr.
Sticking with Ajayi in midfield for the two games didn’t give us the opportunity to assess Frank Onyeka who has been making waves in Denmark in that position. Onyeka was on from the start of the first game but he looked confused and unsure of what to do alongside Ajayi in midfield. Against Tunisia, Onyeka didn’t play at all.
It wasn’t just Onyeka, we didn’t see enough of Cyril Dessers and Chidera Ejuke, two strikers who impressed in the Dutch Eredivisie last season and got moves on the back of those performances.
It was also puzzling to see Sanusi return for the second half of the game of Tunisia after making his point in one and a half games.
Ona Aina, a right full-back by trade didn’t see any minute at all while the likes of Kelvin Akpoguma and Chidozie Awaziem, both central defenders were played out of position.