The Super Eagles may have finally brought to an end a dismal record of going almost five years without a win in friendly matches after they edged past Mozambique 3-2 in Portugal.
Before Monday’s victory over the Mambas of Mozambique, you will have to go way back to March 2019, when Paul Onuachu stunned Egypt in Asaba after less than a minute to recall the last time the Super Eagles won a friendly.
The Eagles will then go eight losses and seven draws in friendlies till Monday in Portugal.
Coach Jose Peseiro himself has admitted he enjoyed the 2-2 draw with Saudi Arabia last week and not the win over Mozambique.
“I liked the match against Saudi Arabia, but today (Monday), I don’t like. Today (Monday), we need to score five, six, seven, eight goals,” he lamented.
The Portuguese coach made wholesale changes to the starting XI vs Saudi Arabia as he looked at various options leading to next month’s 2026 World Cup qualifiers and the 2023 AFCON in January 2024.
The experimental selection fought back from an early goal by Mozambique to lead 3-1 by halftime.
Mozambique, who played with 10 men after a defender was sent off in the 37th minute, won the second half when they pulled a goal back, again from a setpiece (two goals conceded against Saudi Arabia were also from free kicks) and with goalkeeper Francis Uzoho in goal.
With three other goalkeepers in training camp in Portugal – Maduka Okoye, Adeleye Adebayo, Olorunleke Ojo – Peseiro stuck to the fumbling Uzoho.
It was a bold statement by the Eagles coach – I don’t care about the outside noises, I will pick my team on my own terms.
He has always maintained that he will always defend his players and that explained his emotional defence of Uzoho after the Saudi Arabia blunder.
Uzoho has put up his own defence, arguing that the goalkeeper occupies a critical role in a football team and that you learn from your mistakes.
Has he learnt from the mistake that let in the goal for Ghana in Abuja in March 2022, which caused the country to miss out on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar?
This season, he has yet to make an appearance in the league with Cypriot club Omonia Nicosia as he has continued to play second fiddle to a 35-year-old Brazilian goalkeeper.
Simply put, he is not good enough and Peseiro must set aside this his loyalty business and get a goalkeeper who will command the respect of the Eagles defence and the country.
The Eagles defence itself remains in shambles from the friendlies in Portugal.
Tyronne Ebuehi, Calvin Bassey, Jordan Torunarigha and even Bruno Onyemaehi make William Ekong look top-class, while Semi Ajayi will need to step up against better opposition.
Wilfred Ndidi, Frank Onyeka and Raphael Onyedika were decent in defensive midfield, but Joe Aribo is not the same player the fans raved about just a few years ago.
Will the Eagles again have to rely on Alex Iwobi to deliver the creativity that this team desperately lack?
Victor Boniface is already a valuable addition to the star-studded Super Eagles front line, just as he has proved his worth at Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen.
He is the complete striker, who could play at the top of the strike force, but preferably behind the top striker in a 4-4-2 formation that Peseiro has adopted to accommodate more strikers in his starting XI.
Strangely, Ademola Lookman not the same class act for Nigeria that he is with Serie A club Atalanta.
Moses Simon can still be counted on to deliver when it matters most, but Samuel Chukwueze has been inconsistent and may now have to be consigned to the bench as an impact sub.
Terem Moffi scored against Mozambique and could have netted more. He will need to do more to make the final cut to the AFCON, while on the evidence of what he showed in Portugal, Sadiq Umar did not help his promoters’ commitment to continue to push for his inclusion on a squad so spoilt for choices upfront.