Football

AFCON Qualifiers: Five things we learnt from Nigeria’s win over Benin

The Super Eagles of Nigeria ended the Squirrels of Benin Republic’s unbeaten run at home that lasted for 8 years, thanks to a 93rd-minute header from Paul Onuachu. Here are the five things to note from the clash.

There is talent in the NPFL. Anayo Iwuala had a cameo appearance of 10 minutes and he wowed many Nigerians with his positioning and his touches. He was a bit selfish (just like many forwards), but he showed a glimpse of what he had been doing for Enyimba all season. 

No creative midfielder. One of the missing links in the Super Eagles team for the past few years is creativity in the midfield, and in the win over Benin, nothing changed. The closest to creative is Alex Iwobi, and he tested posi COVID-19 before the tie. Oghenekaro Etebo is also an option, but he didn’t play. Wilfred Ndidi is a perfect defensive midfielder and Joe Aribo is a box-to-box midfielder. We need a midfielder that can control the rhythm on his own.

Two strikers can work for Nigeria. People have the theory of “teams don’t play two strikers again”. That is false. The players you have will determine how you play. When Onuachu came on in the second half, he and Osimhen became the focus upfront and the Beninese didn’t know how to handle both of them. Incidentally, they both combined to score the goal.

Zaidu Sanusi is our left-back. Since the retirement of Taye Taiwo, the left-back position had been occupied by “okay players”. Elderson Echiejile was the best of them, while Brian Idowu and Jamilu Collins were the latest call-ups. But Sanusi looks to have inherited that position. He was brilliant going forward with lovely crosses and he did not forget his defensive duty.

No set-piece taker. In the past, Nigeria boasted of some of the best crossers in the world, but now, the story has changed. Samuel Chukwueze was the culprit this time. His crosses were bad and they were either too long or too short. Although, it was his corner kick that led to the only goal late on in the encounter.

What did you learn from the match?

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