Some observations on the Super Eagles from the 2-1 win over Benin.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria kicked off their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier with a 2-1 win over the Republic of Benin at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo on Wednesday, November 13.
Victor Osimhen and Samuel Kalu scored in each half to help Nigeria bounce back from a goal down.
These are five things we learnt from the game.
1. Samuel Kalu showing his importance
Samuel Kalu has always been a talented player and was just a matter of time before he started to show it. He was one of Nigeria’s best players in the 2-2 draw against Ukraine in October but missed the game against Brazil.
He returned for the game against Benin and showed us why he is an important player in the squad. The goal threats came mostly from him, dribbling to his right from the left side of attack to trouble the defence. That was how his goal came about, he waltzed through several bodies in defence to make room to shoot at goal. A brilliant move for the solo goal the game needed.
2. Semi Ajayi at home in Super Eagles defence
After failing to convince his call up in midfield, Semi Ajayi has found a home in the Super Eagles defence alongside William Troost-Ekong. Against Benin he was solid again, closing down spaces, clearing the ball well and being composed.
Apart from the sloppy defending that game Benin their opening goal, the Super Eagles defence was at their best all evening and Ajayi contributed a lot to that.
3. Joe Aribo makes competitive debut
Joe Aribo is now a complete Nigeria international after making his competitive debut for the Super Eagles. He had played in two friendly games before the game on Wednesday and that wouldn’t have tied him down to Nigeria.
Not that there was any threat of him going elsewhere, but it was good to see the promising midfielder commit fully to Nigeria.
He was solid in the game too, staying back more to provide solidity in midfield with Wilfred Ndidi and he came out unscathed in his first game against African opposition.
4. Super Eagles go gritty
As expected against African opposition, this was a battle that needed more grit than style and the Super Eagles came out tops. Despite going behind, the Super Eagles controlled the game, won every first ball and physically dominated the game.
Gernot Rohr’s new Super Eagles had impressed with their style of play against Ukraine and Brazil. But when it comes to African football, it’s always different. This was their first test and they passed.
5. Jamilu Collins still not convincing
German-based left-back Jamilu Collins had another poor game for the Super Eagles of Nigeria. He was caught napping for Benin’s early goal and gave away the ball with some sloppy play that almost gave the away side an equaliser late in the game.
Collins has been the first-choice left-back since his first callup but he is yet to repay Rohr’s faith.