Adeyanju Abiodun analysis says the Super Eagles posted a confident performance to beat Lesotho 3-0 to wrap up AFCON qualification with some notable individual performances thrown into the party.
1 F. Uzoho, 21 T. Ebuehi, 5 W. Troost-Ekong (Captain), 6 L. Balogun, 17 Z. Sanusi (J. Collins 54′), – 11 S. Chukwueze (A. Iwuala 86′), 8 O. Etebo, 4. Ndidi, 18 A. Iwobi (H. Onyekuru 76′) – 14 K. Iheanacho (A. Musa 86′), 9 V. Osimhen (P. Onuachu 76′)
23 J. Noble, 2 O Aina, 11 H. Onyekuru, 3 J. Collins, 12 S. Abdullahi, 19 P. Onuachu, 20 C. Awaziem, 13 S. Ajayi, 7 A. Musa, 10 A. Iwuala, 22 A. Adeleke
16 S. Moerane (M. Ramalefane 90′), 14 T. Malane, 8 B. Sello (M. Mohapi 84′), 19 N. Lerotholi, 3 B. Makepe, 2 M. Mkhwanazi, 12 T. Lesaoana (L. Fothoane 61′), 4 T. Toloane, 17 N. Masoabi, 15 L. Marabe (M. Sera 60′), 18 T. Khutlang (H. Kalake 84′)
1 M. Ramalefane, 13 T. Matsoele, 6 T. Ngatane, 5 T. Masiu, 7 H. Kalake, 20 M. Mohapi, 11 N. Mokhachane, 9 M. Sera, 10 L. Fothoane
Tuesday at the Teslin Balogun Stadium in Lagos, the Super Eagles were able to underline their early qualification for the African Cup of Nations in a comfortable 3-0 victory against Lesotho. Osimhen, Etebo, and Onuachu were all on the scoreboard as Nigeria showed glimpses of enterprising football.
System and Personnel Changes
Nigeria continued with their 4-4-2 formation and despite already qualifying for the African Cup of Nations due to a draw that took place between Lesotho and Sierra Leone on the 27th of March, the Super Eagles still came out with a nearly full-strength squad that only saw a few changes from their previous match:
-In goal, Francis Uzoho, came in for Maduka Okoye.
-Tyrone Ebuehi started in the place of Ola Aina.
-Etebo came in for Joe Aribo.
-Alex Iwobi returned to the starting eleven after testing positive for Covid-19 in place of Henry Onyekeru
Offensively, Nigeria played very direct. The plan was to play long passes to Victor Osimhen, who would then use his physicality to create scoring opportunities.
Predominantly in the first half, the Super Eagles transitional play involved the ball being played to either the full backs or Wilfreid Ndidi in the holding midfield role who would then try to find the direct pass to the strikers (mostly Osimhen) — this was if the centerbacks, Ekong and Balogun didn’t already try the long pass themselves.
The second half saw a more indirect style of play incorporated into their game, as well as more free-flowing football.
Defensively, the Super Eagles went with a high press. This was most likely in anticipation of Lesotho’s inability play the ball out of the back comfortably. This tactic worked really well in the second half when Lesotho’s players would constantly be dispossessed, play the ball to Nigerian players, or kick it out of play themselves.
Offensive and Defensive Positioning
In this match, Iheanacho continued his role as the withdrawn striker, while Osimhen played slightly ahead of him. Ndidi took on the more defensive role of the two center midfielders while Etebo had the freedom to play box to box.
This worked out well for the latter player as he was able to get into the box in the second half and score a nice goal from a Victor Osimhen layoff, making the match 2-0.
Victor Osimhen Goal!— Laba Laba Master 🦋🦋🦋 (@Buchi_Laba) March 30, 2021
Confirm striker finish!
Both flank players, Iwobi and Chukwueze, found themselves coming inside into the half space to create space for the fullbacks to overlap.
All the fullbacks that played (Sanusi, Ebuehi, and Collins when he came on) got forward a lot and enjoyed being in attacking positions. This was likely due to the lack of serious offensive threat from Lesotho’s players especially in the second half.
Defensively everybody was positioned high up the pitch, as is necessary when playing a high press. This also had a knock-on effect of a high defensive line.
Nigeria started off shaky and gave the ball away easily on several occasion in the opening minutes of the game. They also gave away a lot of unnecessary freekicks, but after the game settled down and they were able to get enough consistent possession of the ball, Iheanacho found Osimhen with a great through pass, and the latter put the ball in the back of the net to score the games opener.
ETEBO goal for Nigeria.— Laba Laba Master 🦋🦋🦋 (@Buchi_Laba) March 30, 2021
Very unselfish display from Osimhen for the Assist.
2-0 for Nigeria and more to come pic.twitter.com/E7HHQeXo2p
After the opening goal, the Super Eagles became dominant for the rest of the match. They started to move the ball more quickly and the entire team played with more confidence. In the second half Nigeria was playing free-flowing football and seemed to be enjoying themselves as they had the opposition caged in their box.
Notable Individual Performances
Victor Osimhen had a great performance. He had expectational physical presence and continued to be a handful for the opposition as he scored the opening goal (a nice run and then a good finish). He also did well in assisting Etebo. He held the ball up well and had the awareness to lay the ball off when he saw his teammate in an advantageous position.
Ndidi proved once again to be a cool head on the pitch and someone that can help control the flow of the game. He knew what is role was and played it well. His reintroduction to the squad this international break brought more stability to Nigeria’s midfield.
He came onto the pitch with a lot of confidence after scoring a last-minute winner in Nigeria’s previous match. Despite only a playing a few minutes he managed to score a sublime goal with a ferocious shot to make the game 3-0.
What We Learnt
-Nigeria have decent depth when everybody is fit. There is good back-up options in almost every position, with some positions having no clear best player.
-Onuachu can be more than a fringe player if used properly.
It could be said that this result was always expected as Nigeria faced a team that is yet to win a game in the group and that has only scored 3 goals in the competition so far, but every match comes with its own challenge and there was still a job to do, and for the first time in a while, the Super Eagles showed that they could win convincingly.