Enough might be more than enough: No real fluidity yet but Eagles show improvement in Guinea win
Well, it’s another case of ‘just about’ for the Super Eagles, as they continue their march – or rather limp – in the Nations Cup. While against Burundi on Saturday it was left to Odion Ighalo to provide the winning moment with about a quarter of an hour left, here in their second Group B game against Guinea it was Kenneth Omeruo, who, with 18 minutes to go, dashed across the near post to head home Moses Simon’s corner, and send Nigeria to the last 16.
Once again, there was a sense that something was lacking in the side, as Gernot Rohr’s side were not at their very best, despite winning. But, there was still a difference from the display against Burundi. Rohr opted to drop Samuel Chukwueze and John Obi Mikel for this game, with Simon and Ahmed Musa coming in, while Ighalo replaced Paul Onuachu up front. Unlike the first game, which saw the Eagles look clueless in attack for most of it, here there was at least pace and incision, Musa’s direct running causing the Guinean defence some trouble.
Ighalo also offered a pacey outlet compared to Onuachu’s static display as target-man on Saturday, and the Chinese Super League based forward really should have helped put Nigeria in front in the first half, but he opted to shoot from a tight angle with Musa free alongside. But the tempo in the first half was still a bit off the pace, and at the other end, Daniel Akpeyi had a few moments of uncertainty.
The second half was a different case, Nigeria upped the ante, and Guinea goalie Ibrahim Kone was much busier, particularly from Simon and Alex Iwobi – who played centrally here, unlike the Burundi game. The affair wasn’t the most fluid, but for a second game running, Nigeria have been relatively solid at the back. As the tired cliché goes, attacks win you games, defences win you titles, and in a competition like this, with so many random variables and so little chances to rectify setbacks, flair football is more likely to see you get caught out.
Just as importantly, though, this is a vital win because of the incidents that preceded it. None of the Super Eagles players attended the pre-match conference with Rohr, as they protested over unpaid bonuses from the Burundi win. It’s the usually tedious money talk (for Nigerian football) that threatens to derail team preparations, but this game put to that bed, not just in terms of the result, but the performance as well.
Another game, another win. It wasn’t the most convincing, but it was enough. And in tournaments like these, enough might be more than enough.
Kunle Ajao63 Posts
Kunle Ajao is a football writer and columnist for spotkick. Having made a toss of himself trying to actually play the game, he knew better and got a pen instead of boots. Spends a bit of his time with the game, and thinks he's a bit like Sid Lowe. He's not