Juventus/Poland legend and now Poland FA President Zbingew Boniek chose to play the Super Eagles as a result of geographical profiling, most would argue our game differs from the Senegalese who happen to be in the same group as Poland.
But there are certain traits we share: natural speed and strength. Adam Nawalka, the Poland coach would do a post mortem of this game and probably fancy their chance against Senegal. Rightly so, they played the ball around with haste and accuracy, most of that sequence of play along with set piece caused Nigeria problems.
As much as Nawalka wanted to learn about Senegal we learnt about ourselves more.
Pardon the bit of wordplay, the Super Eagles had no claw in Wroclaw. Though pronounced as “wro-slaf” what wasn’t pronounced was the calm and midfield-attack interplay the Eagles had shown in previous games, where with quick triangles we had moved 10-15 yards forward.
That interplay and calm seems to be a patented trait of just one midfielder in the team, it’s a no brainer who that person is: Mikel Obi. Just like the game against Cameroon in Yaoundé where he was replaced by Mikel Agu, also that 10mins in Uyo, disjointed midfield-attack play re-appeared yesterday in Wroclaw.
Tactically, Gernot Rohr got it quite right early on, pushing Joel Obi on Gregory Krychowiak when they built from the back and we pressed, that singular act stifled the poles for the first 30mins. The remainder of what was left of the game was Krychowiak orchestrating play and controlling tempo in the same way Mikel does, reason for that being two things; a) the way the team turned over play, b) no team can press as a unit for 90mins.
The post-match comments of Rohr revolved around hard work and humility, stand-in captain William Troost-Ekong echoed his coach but choice words were “improve”, “young”.
For us to do all these we must find a way to play without Mikel, which would be the ideal improvement because at the Olympics in 2016 we saw Mikel too could be stopped like the “Bender twins” did.
Tempted to go ‘Hungarian’ with their variation of formations in a bid to proffer a solution but formations in international football are a function of player profile since you can’t buy, but a solution might be Alex Iwobi as 10 solely for his vertical running during transition, flanked by Simon and Moses with two ball winners behind him, Ndidi and Onazi preferably.
It might be a herculean task for Rohr but this is partly where his know-how is needed the most.
By Armstrong Egwim. He wrote in from Lagos, Nigeria. (Twitter: @Steinzen)