It was a rather average performance by the Super Eagles in their loss to African champions Algeria as they failed to create chances.
Alex Iwobi was sparingly notable, while Samuel Kalu and Samuel Chukwueze were below par in attack.
Super Eagles 4-2-3-1: 1 Maduka Okoye – 12 Zaidu Sanusi, 5 William Ekong (Captain), 6 Leon Balogun, 21 Tyronne Ebuehi (25 Kevin Akpoguma 67) – 13 Semi Ajayi, 4 Frank Onyeka (10 Mikel Agu 46) – 18 Alex Iwobi (19 Samson Tijani 85), 11 Samuel Chukwueze (7 Ahmed Musa 75), 17 Samuel Kalu (Moses Simon 50) – 9 Paul Onuachu (14 Kelechi Iheanacho 67)
Algeria 4-2-3-1 : 16 Oukidja – 21 Bensebaini (6 Fares Salim 75), 3 Tahrat, 2 Mandi, 14 Halaimia – 12 Belkebla, 19 Abeid – 20 Benrahma, 8 Boulaya, 7 Mahrez (Captain) (11 Brahimi 72) – 15 Delort
After they were knocked out of the African Cup of Nations in the semi-finals last year by Algeria, this was a chance for Nigeria to get back at the North Africans.
This challenge was quickly made the more difficult after the Super Eagles conceded a goal from a corner just six minutes into the match.
Though they tried to match the African champions, they created very few clear-cut chances which ultimately resulted in them losing this friendly.
Early on in the match, the Super Eagles conceded from a set piece, where a mixture between zonal and man marking was used, a usually controversial topic, but this time was not to be blamed as it came down to individual error.
The tactics of the Nigerian manager Gernot Rohr, was to negate the threat of the Algerian wingers (especially Riyad Mahrez), not lose the midfield battle, and to play the balls directly to Onuachu so that he could then link up with the surrounding players.
The team employed a medium block, showing a fair amount of respect to their opponents, but perhaps defensively, the Super Eagles overdid it.
🇩🇿⚽️ Goaaaaal Ramy Bensebaini 1-0 pic.twitter.com/JxIJFdVGzc— Walid Ziani (@bylka613_) October 9, 2020
The fullbacks rarely pushed forward, failing to overlap beyond the wingers throughout the match, and sparingly providing support when the team were in the attacking third.
The double pivot employed was also too defensive, as neither holding midfielder contributed anything meaningful offensively.
From the attacking point of view, Nigeria’s approach was either to play direct passes to the striker Onuachu, or to give the ball to Iwobi in deep positions and have him try to create something.
These tactics did not allow Nigeria to be expansive enough and led to the creation of very few chances.
And despite being in a losing position for the majority of the match, there was no change to make the team more dangerous — Not even in the latter parts of the game.
As a team, it was an average showing. They gave away too many direct free kicks to a team who have a good free kick taker in Mahrez (who also scored a free kick against them in their last meeting), allowed an early goal, and bar Iwobi, were far too stagnant in their movements and positioning throughout the match.
However, they had some decent periods and tried to match the Algerians in a tough game.
The sparingly notable player for Nigeria in this game was Alex Iwobi.
He put on a mobile, though inconsistent display. He was very influential in the first half, but extremely clumsy in possession in the second half, misplacing passes and being disposed when he attempted dribbles.
This was a contrast to the opening 45 minutes where he was more precise in his passing and did well at carrying the ball forward.
Despite these inconsistencies, it felt like if the Super Eagles were going to create anything, it would be from him.
Notable below-par performances came from the forwards Samuel Chukwueze, Samuel Kalu, and Paul Onuachu.
They were all very stagnant and struggled to retain the ball.
Chukwueze failed to control many balls and was unsuccessful in many of his dribbles.
Kalu did not see much of the ball throughout the match and when he did, he lost it quite often.
Onuachu, as the target man, also misplaced passes and failed to hold the ball as required for his team mates.
In the early minutes of the match, the Super Eagles conceded from a corner kick, where Ekong lost the aerial battle against Ramy Bensebaini, who he had the duty of man marking.
Any defender can lose an aerial challenge. The bigger blame was his failure to lose his man and allow him to get to the second ball for what would be the winning goal.
He and Balogun did however stay calm throughout the rest of the match and did well to deal with the threats from the Algerian attackers.
This was a friendly at the end of the day and one of the main objectives of this is for the coach and his assistants to experiment with new formations and tactics ahead of a competitive match.
It was also an opportunity to use and learn more about new and fringe players of the team.
Certainly, a lot was learnt in this regard.
BY ADEYANJU ABIODUN,
H&B GLOBAL SPORTS