Depleted Super Eagles ride on luck to beat Cape Verde

Gernot Rohr's team nicks the three points without his key men.

Super Eagles of Nigeria won their second straight 2020 FIFA World Cup qualifiers (Instagram/Super Eagles)

Restrictions from United Kingdom's COVID-19 protocols complicated Gernot Rohr's Super Eagles plans for the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Liberia and Cape Verde.

To a lesser degree, the qualifier against Liberia, but playing that game knowing that he will be without some of his best players, was a headscratcher for Rohr.

He didn't use the Liberia game to prepare for Cape Verde; instead, he focused on getting the result against the Lone Stars, which he did with a 2-0 win. Typical Rohr!

The following day after that game, eight United Kingdom-based players left camp because they could not travel to Cape Verde, a red-list country.

Travelling to Cape Verde would have meant a 10-day quarantine on reaching the United Kingdom, which would have made them miss a slew of games for their clubs.

"It's a difficult task for us without our best players, but we have other players who we have not tested, but I believe can do the job," Rohr told Pulse after the game against Liberia.

The German coach was forced to seven changes to his starting XI with two debutants Innocent Bonke and Kingsley Michael.

Bonke and Michael looked overwhelmed early on, but Super Eagles had enough quality to mask it.

In what looked like a three-man defence setup, Rohr was more concerned with keeping it tight at the back without his main stars.

It made for a scrappy first half before the Super Eagles were caught cold in the 19th minute for a Cape Verde goal.

Moses Simon, who at times looked like a wing-back, was caught out with a long ball over the top for Dylan Tavares to settle before beating Super Eagles goalkeeper Maduka Okoye at the near post.

Tavares looked offside from replays, but with the absence of VAR, we were only left to debate on social media while Okoye got the blame for the goal.

The Super Eagles sparked into life and were rewarded 10 minutes later. Jamilu Collins sent a low cross into the Cape Verde box, which the home defence made a mess off.

While scrambling to prevent an own goal, the Cape Verde goalkeeper could not handle the ball with Victor Osimhen in the right place to tap in the rebound.

Another goal didn't look likely after Osimhen's goal, although the Super Eagles dominated the rest of the half.

Not much happened before the Super Eagles took the lead via a ridiculous own goal. Kenny Rocha Santos was far off but still attempted a back pass to his goalkeeper. He had so much power to the pass, and the ball flew over into the net for Nigeria's second goal.

That goal turned out to be the winner. Cape Verde almost got an equaliser with a late header in the box, but the effort went narrowly wide.

Rohr's Super Eagles nicked another win but still failed to convince. The coach already had the perfect excuse.

"We had to build a new team after the first match against Liberia, 10 players missing, so it was not easy to build another team in two days," Rohr said.

Critics will not agree. Rohr's team, while nicking the required points, have not shown outright dominance against weaker teams.

For now, these critics will not slate, but they will be louder and bolder if the results stop coming.


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