Nigeria face Sudan on Wednesday in a semi-final game at the 2018 African Nations Championship billed for the Grand Stade de Marrakesh.
The Super Eagles received a massive blow with the news that attacker Sunday Faleye is ruled out of the game, and possibly the remainder of the tournament.
Faleye was replaced on 61 minutes against Angola which meant the Eagles played one hour of football without the lad who had been their best attacking player in the competition.
Our Chief Football Writer FISAYO DAIRO who is in Marrakesh tells us the three possible options available for the team’s coaching crew led by Salisu Yusuf to pick from.
1. Like-for-like replacement.
This looks to me to be the most likely option the coaches will opt for because Yusuf in his press conference on Tuesday didn’t sound as though he enjoyed the tactical alteration which meant two attackers – Okpotu and Okechukwu (who replaced Faleye) – played an hour together.
In the last match, we made three changes because of injuries and affected our tactical strategy, said Yusuf.
If that is the case, with Peter Eneji not definitely going to be risked from the start, Enyimba winger Augustine Oladapo looks to be the first choice to replace Faleye. Oladapo is a decent player but has not thoroughly impressed especially with his 80 minutes appearance against Angola.
What Oladapo however does help in doing is that: Being a winger who also plays as a central midfielder, he likes to drift in-field and that can allow the marauding full backs (Ikouwem and Osas Okoro especially) enough space to provide width for the team.
2. Okoro as a winger
If the team’s 4-3-3 system is to be retained, this is a good option for me. Osas Okoro has been one of the best players in the team in Morocco. His deliveries have been great while his take-ons have been largely excellent.
Being a natural winger, he can be pushed forward with Rivers United full back Ifeanyi Nweke, another mobile full back playing behind him. This certainly is not a bad idea.
3. Dayo Ojo as the Koke
The way the team finished against Angola when Okpotu and Okechukwu played up top, Dayo Ojo played more at the left side of midfield where his understanding with Ikouwem Udoh was pleasing to the eye.
Yusuf can simply opt for an Atletico Madrid-like 4-4-2 with Ojo playing the Koke role of left sided midfield, Rabiu Ali playing deeper (like he did against Angola) beside Atuloma and a winger Emeka Ogbugh though he has failed to sparkle in the tournament, as the right winger.
Ojo is the more mobile one among the team’s midfielders (Atuloma, Ifeanyi and Ali) and playing on the left hand side will afford the team more possession retention and allow Ikouwem Udoh to channel his inner Marcelo to the fore.
It will be interesting to see what the coaches decide on but certainly, as shown in this post, the injury to Sunday Faleye is not the end of possibilities for the Super Eagles.