Some talking points from Super Eagles win over South Africa on Wednesday night.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria on Wednesday, July 10 beat South Africa to reach the semifinals of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Samuel Chukwueze and William Troost-Ekong scored in both send the South Africans back home.
These are five things we learnt from the game.
1. Chukwueze announces himself
Samuel Chukwueze had his breakthrough season with Villarreal last season, with a series of impressive games but it was against South Africa that he really announced himself to Nigerians.
In just his second start for the Super Eagles at AFCON 2019 and with millions of Nigerians watching, the 20-year-old seized the moment to show what he is really made of.
He was exciting in the game with his dribbling and direct run from the wings. He had the most passes in the game, created most big chances, completed the most dribbles and had the most shots on goal.
He also scored his debut goal for the Super Eagles to become the youngest scorer in AFCON 2019 and won Man of the Match.
Nigerians are huge consumers of European football, so Chukuwueze’s exploits with Villarreal last season are well-known. But it is with his performance on Wednesday night that will make him a household name in Nigeria.
2. Super Eagles a counter-attacking team
The identity of the Super Eagles under Gernot Rohr has difficult to deduce, but it has gradually dawned on everyone that they are a counter-attacking team.
Just like they did against Cameroon, the Super Eagles ceded possession to South Africa, sitting deep and pouncing on a counter.
It worked very well against the Bafana Bafana as the Super Eagles pressed in midfield and at the same time defending with a high line. The Super Eagles didn’t press man on man, rather, they used zonal marking, incepting passes before going at the South Africans.
3. Jamilu Collins stakes his claim to the No 3 position
Rohr had lots of defending to do when he invited Collins who plays in the German division two to the national team The critics weren’t particularly wrong, as the left-back failed to convince in several games.
He got injured on the eve of AFCON 2019 and Ola Aina had filled in impressively. Back to fitness, Rohr slotted him straight into the starting XI against South Africa and he didn’t disappoint.
He was solid in defence and held his line very well. This was his best game for the Super Eagles.
4. Ahmed Musa is important, very important
Contrary to the popular opinion after the game, Ahmed Musa showed against South Africa that he is very important to the Super Eagles. He frustrated Nigerians last night because of his failure to be clinical in the final third, but Musa’s overall game was instrumental to Nigeria’s win on Wednesday night.
Just ask Thamsanqa Mkhize, the South Africa’s right back whom Musa ran haggard in the game. Musa stretched the South Africans and was usually the first choice route going forward.
He did everything right on the night except in the final third. But while that is a huge worry and cause for concern, it doesn’t nullify what he brings to the team. Hopeful he gets it right in the final third in the next game.
5. Super Eagles are seasoned AFCON campaigners
The win on Wednesday night gave the Super Eagles a place in the semi-final where they will meet either Algeria or Cote d'Ivoire.
It will be the 15th time the Super Eagles have gotten to AFCON semi-finals. In fact, the Super Eagles have failed to reach the AFCON semi-finals just three times in their 18 appearances at the tournament. Regulars.