In the end, it looked very easy for the Dutch U17s who dispatched the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria 3-1 in Tuesday night’s round-of-16 clash of the 2019 FIFA U17 World Cup in Brazil.
The Dutch took advantage of two obvious weaknesses of the Golden Eaglets, their uncoordinated form of attacking and porous defence.
It’s been like this from the very first game of the 2019 FIFA U17 World Cup but what had helped the Golden Eagles was the individual brilliance in the team.
Some of the tactics did work.
These Golden Eaglets did know how to break into attack with searing pace. It usually happened with one ball from midfield and then boom they hit you. When it worked, it took opposition defence by surprise. Sometimes it was too fast to break when even the opposition defence expected it.
When it didn't work, it’s looked so frantic and chaotic. This was for most of the cases and the cause for their profligacies in front of goal.
Even more costly for the Golden Eaglets was their porous defence which opponents found joy in, especially against the run of play. They lost their shape anytime they attacked with reckless abandon, leaving the midfield and defence open.
In hindsight, maybe there was no shape at all and this is where Manu Garba failed this team.
Talented bunch they are. You could see from some of the goals. Oluwatimilehin Adeniyi's freekick against Hungary, Ibrahim Said’s brilliant hat-trick against Ecuador and Olakunle Olusegun’s curler in the 3-1 loss to the Netherlands.
These were brilliant individual moments that showed us that these players had the talent like their victorious predecessors in this tournament. It was Garba that failed them with his poor coaching.
Without the ball, the shape of this Golden Eaglets was the worst I've seen on TV in a long time. One pass was all it took most times to cut through it and this is what ultimately cost the Golden Eaglets.
Garba won this tournament before, in 2013, with a much more talented squad while facing less competition. That defence had a similar weakness to the 2019 Golden Eaglets but the team was lucky enough to have players with technical abilities that controlled the game.
That eased the pressure on the defence, a luxury the 2019 Golden Eaglets didn’t have. The players were not far off from that 2013 squad or the other victorious Nigerian U17 teams but they were let down by poor coaching.