Three worthwhile things from worthless Congo friendly

Three worthwhile things from worthless Congo friendly

Nigeria’s Super Eagles drew 1-1 with Congo Democratic Republic on Monday in their last feel of a pitch on the African continent before they move to Europe en-route to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.

Everything surrounding the game was put under intense scrutiny with questions left unanswered about the purpose, the venue (a soggy, dangerous turf for World Cup bound players) and the selection for the game.

It turned out that the thinking of many regarding the game and would-be selection was never in congruent with the manager Gernot Rohr’s plans. In the midst of all the rowdiness, we were still able to bring home some things going into the crucial World Cup preparation period.

1. Uzoho is getting there

In my mind and perhaps that of the coach, Francis Uzoho has long been confirmed as Nigeria’s first choice at the Mundial regardless of some expected nervousness during the March friendlies in Poland and London.

The coach seemingly acknowledges that; for a third division player, he needs more high profile games and although Monday’s kick-about cannot be regarded as such, it still afforded him some opportunity to play with the core defensive back-line.

Uzoho made a couple of fine saves during the game and was able to earn some more confidence from Nigerians. His ability to play comfortably with both feet also provides him an added asset as his defenders can elect to pass to him from anywhere and at any time especially in times of trouble.

2. Welcome to Russia Mr Simy Nwankwo

When Rohr stated after the March friendlies that he was looking for a ‘battering ram’, nobody knew a lanky gentle man from Anambra state, South East Nigeria would surface from the Italian Serie A. From the moment he scored a spectacular overhead kick against Juventus, he never looked back, following it up with five more goals between April and May.

For those that might have seen the team train in Uyo, we were virtually convinced he is the missing link in the team. We felt he had Russia in his pockets. Let me confide in you: I walked up to Mr Nwankwo after Saturday morning’s training, looked up to the towering figure and told him I had a dream that I interviewed him in Russia. So, save the face and the medium ahead of that. He laughed and thanked me as he rushed into the Eagles bus.

He took just over three minutes in the game on Monday to show his qualities. The Crotone star (I expect that to change after the World Cup) received a good pass from Ogenyi Onazi, decisioned his marker and shot on his weaker foot onto the cross bar. He later had a header superbly saved by the Congolese goalkeeper and in all, his positioning, hold-up play and overall understanding with teammates were not bad. Once again I say: Welcome to Russia!

3. What do we do with Joel Obi and Mikel Agu

Going by what Rohr disclosed during last Friday’s media parley in Uyo, it is expected that he goes to Russia with two players in each position. That might have informed Joel Obi and Mikel Agu playing forty-five minutes apiece on Monday night.

Obi’s return to the national team has not been as fulfilling as what the footballing prophets told. He had a decent start to the Poland game in Wroclaw before fizzling out, and then a largely uncoordinated outing at The Hive against Serbia. Monday was meant to be a time to “watch them again and again” like Rohr said, with respect to those outside his “Chosen 20”.

He was lost for most periods on Monday night and there was a palpable lack of movement in the midfield which often led to Leon Balogun and Troost-Ekong carrying the ball to the half way line and trying to connect the attackers by themselves.

This changed in the second half when Agu came on, perhaps the entry of Alex Iwobi also helped more but the Bursaspor man edged it with his articulation.

What will now happen to these two? Who drops from the party? Can we afford both players in Russia, I honestly don’t think so. Mr Rohr, over to you.

We will appreciate it if we can have what you think about these points in the comments section.


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    Reply Sir Phembol May 29, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    Before yesterday I had held my stance that Mikel Agu should not be donning the S/Eagles shirt, not to say starting ahead of John Ogu. I still hold my stance though it seems Coach Rohr is blinded to this fact and public outcry.

    The World Cup is to near to change game setups. Else I would have suggested we field Simy and Odion in a 4-4-2 formation. Town different strikers giving the oppositions’ defence too much think about. It is a tactic can be adopted in the course of the game against England.

    Set pieces must be worked upon- in taking and defending it. Remember, Nigeria has the least proficiency and experience in this regard-also in the defence and midfield in our World Cup group.

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    Reply Igbo Amadi-Obi May 29, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    I had said previously that Uzoho needs to gain the confidence of his defenders more than that of Nigerians. We will be watching, with or without confidence.

    However, the more he is the subject of media critical scrutiny, the more I worry. It is easy to tell that everyone is nervous.

    I guess it is what it is at this point.

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    Reply Jimi May 29, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    As one of the Joel Obi prophets, Fisayo referred to, it’s quite telling to see his sub par performance in all the games. His long term injuries have created a shadow of the promise he once held.
    @biolakazeem’s tweet is quite apt on Uzoho. He’s all we have in goal for the World Cup. We’ve got to urge him on. Thankfully, he’s proving to be a decent pair of hands. His confidence level is quite infectious as well.

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      Reply Fisayo Dairo May 29, 2018 at 4:46 pm

      It is also disappointing, honestly because we thought he could offer a second class creativity for the team after Mikel and Iwobi but unfortunately, it has not turned out well.


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    Reply Rol May 29, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    The match against DR Congo is not enough. Let us try Joel Obi against England. He has experience and have seen the big boys. Simmy is already in Russia. I took time to watch his videos on Youtube and he may be the saviour in Russia.

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    Reply Kingsley May 29, 2018 at 11:26 am

    nwankwo is already in that plane……..if Joel is dropped no problem

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    Reply Ghanaman May 29, 2018 at 10:50 am

    Uzoho is definitely our no. 1 .

    Simy and Lokosa shd make the party too. Plus the latter will be a big morale booster for the NPFL players.

    Finally, I’ll always pick Joel ahead of Agu.

    *Ghanaman signing out*

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