No Mikel no problem, but do we have a Jay-Jay in Iwobi?

Published in Awa Football October 13 2018 font size decrease font size increase font size
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No Mikel no problem, but do we have a Jay-Jay in Iwobi? five lessons learned from the game against The Knights

Libya were looking to maintain their unbeaten record in the 2019 African Cup of Nations qualification, but three goals and a goal from Odion Ighalo and Samuel Kalu respectively condemned the Mediterranean Knights to an ignominious if their first-half display should be put into consideration.

So many big news ahead of the game, but arguably the biggest from the Nigerian side was the skipper of the side ruling himself or being excused as it were by the coach from the doubleheader tie – an act that has turned to a perpetual habit.

A Mikel-less Super Eagles’ especially, with their display in the second half showed to the world that the team is capable of doing wonders, even in the absence of their skipper.

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But away from that, what are the five biggest take-homes from the game

1. Iwobi, the Jay-Jay we have been looking for: He was so good that he was named twice – we never believed that Austin Jay Jay Okocha’s boots were this big to lace. 12 years after the former Bolton midfielder retired from the national team, many have come, gone, or stay as it were, all in the name of replacing the midfield maestro - Rabiu Ibrahim, Nosa Igiebor, Michael Babatunde to mention a few, but all failed successfully. But with Iwobi’s display against Libya, there is something to rejoice about. Iwobi can never be Jay-Jay – but with the defence-splitting passes, in-human dribbles – he keeps that up, he can be the closest we will ever have.

2. No Mikel no Problem: Series of reasons and excuses were given as why 31-year-old midfielder will miss out the doubleheader against Libya – while all the reasons being given might be genuine but are not excuse – and calling a spade, a spade, it is a case of the Tianjin Teda player selecting games to play, as it had been insinuated from the pre-press conference ahead of the Seychelles game that Mikel would miss the games against Libya, and only be available for the game against South Africa. Mikel or no Mikel, no problem. No iota of disrespect to what he brings to the table, but let’s think of today’s game without Oghenekaro Etebo. Wilfred Ndidi, for now is indispensable in the team, Etebo comes to fore when thinking of sacrificial lamb for Mikel, but we won’t as Nigerians try to imagine the game without Etebo.

3. Nigerians should not be carried away by Ighalo’s hat-trick: Ighalo’s three goals helped see off highly spirited Libyan side, but should we be carried away? No. After putting Nigeria ahead in the second minute, seven minutes later, he chose to throw himself to the floor for no reason when he was set on a one-on-one with the Libyan goalkeeper. Unlike in the game against Argentina, where he never got another chance to redeem himself, he got himself redeemed today – it’s so unusual in the game of football.

While it is important for Nigerians not to be carried away by Ighalo’s hat-trick, it is more importanter for Ighalo not to carry himself away.

4. Jamiu Collins, an answer to the left back conundrum: A game might be too quick to say we have got an answer to the left back conundrum, but a performance as convincing as the one Jamiu Collins had from the left-back position against Libya? The last time we saw something close to that, arguably, was in the days of Taye Taiwo. The Paderborn of Germany had little to do defensively, but going forward, he was a joy to watch. He was unlucky not to have had his name on the scoresheet – as his effort hits the woodwork on the stroke of half-time. His step-overs were a beauty to see – only Marcelo, as a left-back does that in modern day football.

5. Super Eagles can’t afford to be complacent: The most important of all the lessons today is ahead of the return leg on Monday, Super Eagles’ players can’t afford to be carried away. The Knights’ goalkeeper gifted Nigeria the first goal, a wonderful close-range from Francis Uzuoho denied the Knights an equalizer. When you put these together with the fact that Libyan should have been given at least two penalties in the first half, maybe we should put in mind that the return leg in Tunisia will not be a stroll in the park for Nigeria in Tunisia.

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