Nigeria qualified for next January’s African Nations Championships on Saturday after successfully overturning a 1-0 deficit against Benin inside the scorching heat of Kano.
Goals in each half from Rabiu Ali and Kingsley Eduwo earned the Super Eagles a somewhat comfortable victory over their less-fancied neighbours who will rue their penalty miss in the second half.
Our Chief Football Writer FISAYO DAIRO takes a look at how each member of Nigeria’s locally assembled national team fared in their audition for places in the mainstream Super Eagles side.
Ikechukwu Ezenwa: Did not have much to do throughout the game but provided good leadership from the back and most importantly made a crucial penalty save in the 63rd minute.
With Gernot Rohr seemingly undecided on who to play in goal when Cameroon come calling in September, it is expected that Ezenwa, at least has earned himself an invitation yet again. 7/10
Osas Okoro: Was full of activity and delivered a superb assist off his weaker foot for Eduwo’s goal. Being a natural winger helped his mobility going forward and tracking back.
Can be suspect attimes at the back though but deserves a chance to fight for Rohr’s troubled right back position. 7/10
Chima Akas: The same old Akas. Steady, concentrated on not making mistakes so made hesitant overlapping runs.
Had a free kick unluckily come off inside of the post but overall did nothing out of the ordinary. Not the one to retire Echiejile. 6/10
Stephen Eze: This towering defender was one of Nigeria’s best players on the day and giving away a penalty should not take that away from him.
Great anticipation and interceptions, accurate ball distribution and assured composure. Rohr should’ve seen something especially as he also had a great first leg outing. 8/10
Emmanuel Ariwachukwu: The replacement for suspended Orji Kalu did a composed job of mopping behind Eze. He hardly put any foot wrong and with a considerable height too, was able to handle his duels very well. 7/10
Ifeanyi Ifeanyi: Could be excused for playing deeper than he should. Played in an unaccustomed holding midfield role in the absence of the dropped Afeez Aremu.
Committed quite a number of fouls and was lucky to be on the pitch still he was substituted before the hour mark. 5/10
Samuel Mathias: A game the El-Kanemi Warrior would like to forget in a hurry. Another victim of playing out of position.
Didn’t have a correct grasp of his role and was guilty of many turnovers in the middle of the park. Deserves another chance in his preferred forward role. 4/10
Rabiu Ali: Surely knows the Kano pitch inside out and what an amazing movement in the buildup to his goal! He also worked for the team and rather harshly got booked for a tackle.
His quick switch of play from either sides of the pitch also freed Okoro for the second goal. The question now is: Outside Kano, can the 36-year old do this?
For the meantime though, he was my Man of the Match. 8.5/10
Alhassan Ibrahim: Worst hit by the presence of Ali the Legend. Had a lovely assist for Ali’s goal but that was virtually the telling contribution he made on the pitch as he wandered about in the shadows of the Number 10.
The coaching crew must decide going forward how to manage this conflict of interests for the progress of the team. Alhassan underwhelmed by his lofty standards and the reason is not far fetched: Rabiu Ali. 6/10
Stephen Odey: Not a bad performance from the league’s top scorer. Linked up well with the midfield and allowed his strike partner, Eduwo a field day.
Not the best of final touches from him though but there was enough encouragement to take from his performance. 7/10
Kingsley Eduwo: Absolutely unplayable with his power and skills. He maneuver his way through the Beninoise defence on countless occasions with panache. Absolutely confident on the ball as well.
His headed goal was unstoppable although he still has much to do on his final balls. Missed a good chance after his power saw him through in the first half and fluffed two 2-on-1 situations in the second half. 8/10
Sikiru Olatunbosun: Was lively when he came on midway through the second half. Scored a goal wrongly chalked offside and contributed much to Nigeria’s attacking forays in the second half. 7/10
Raphael Ayagwa: Came on for Ifeanyi and did well in stabilizing the defensive midfield area with some good clearances. Also lifted the burden on the shoulders of Ali and Alhassan. 6/10
Ifeanyi George: Gave away three fouls, fouled once. With just fifteen minutes left when he came on, he had more of a bullying effect on the young Beninoise as Nigeria ran down the clock. 5/10
Coach Salisu Yusuf: Passed this test albeit against an opposition they were expected to go past.
Key decisions such as defensive roles for offensive players Mathias and Ifeanyi as well as the ‘Nigerian Gerrard and Lampard situation’ Ali and Alhassan on the same pitch have deleterious effects.
His daring attacking set-up has its dangers and the team was exposed for the period he made another daring change, substituting Mathias for a winger, Olatunbosun. Nigeria conceded the penalty during the period between Olatunbosun’s entrance and Ayagwa’s entrance due to the space behind the midfield.
A more experienced and talented side may make the team pay for such carefree tactics.
Do you agree with my ratings or disagree? Let me know what you think in the Comments Section below this article.