After flourishing in the World Cup Qualifiers, the Nigerian Super Eagles are a step closer to the 2018 FIFA World Cup with only friendlies to prepare for the competition.
Nigeria will still play DR Congo (Abuja, May 28), England (Wembly, June 2) and Czech Republic on June 6 to complete their warm-up games ahead of the competition..
With only two friendly matches played out of the already billed five games, we take a look at the chances of the team in the forthcoming World Cup competition.
Is Gernot Rohr’s Team Ready For World Cup?
Although Gernot Rohr has lost only two times since taking charge of the Nigeria National Team in August 2016 but questions were raised questioning his squad depth and strength after loosing by two goals to nil against Serbia four days after a nervy win against Poland.
But one or two observations we learnt from the team is that it’s seems to be built around John Mikel-Obi, Victor Moses and the infamous nickname ‘oyinbo wall’ for the duo of Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun.
Recall when the Eagles team lost to South Africa on June 10, 2017 the two centre-back partners for the game was Troost-Ekong and Awaziem and same was fielded for the game against Serbia and the team lost again.
Nigeria vs South Africa:
Troost-Ekong partners Awaziem in CB.
Nigeria vs Serbia:
Troost-Ekong partners Awaziem in CB.
What is happening gann? #NGASRB
— Fisayo Dairo (@FisayoDairo) March 27, 2018
So from an apparent depth it’s looks like once Mikel or the ‘oyinbo wall’ are not present in the team, it crumbles and the squad becomes shadow of its self.
We can forget that the now unpopular Daniel Akpeyi was between the sticks that evening, but the defence, with Awaziem partnering Troost-Ekong, was a disaster, while a midfield featuring Wilfred Ndidi, Ogenyi Onazi and Oghenekaro Etebo lacked coordination. As a consequence, the attacking trio of Moses Simon, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho suffered.
Obviously There’s a lot of quality in the Super Eagles squad, however the problem is that the backup options like Ebuehi, Awaziem, Joel Obi, John Ogu, Mikel Agu among others have not had enough minutes to impress or lack enough talent to make the desired impact.
Rohr has a solid team on paper, but needs to find a Plan B when the first options and key men aren’t around. Assuming Mikel or Balogun don’t make it to World Cup tournament due to injury or any other reason the team may well struggle to make it out of Group D.
The goalkeeping department and forward line are still the biggest hitches in team. Uzoho and Ikechukwu Ezenwa lack of composure and poor positioning in certain moments could cost a lot if lady luck doesn’t smile and we could point at many instances in the game against Serbia besides that, they have shown good quality
He is yet to have a stable forward, with the likes of Odion Ighalo and Iheanacho either playing below par or not convincing enough.
This has led to calls of bringing Obafemi Martins back into the squad based on his experience, while Junior Ajayi made his senior debut at The Hive, coming on for Iwobi. He made little impact in his two-minute cameo, but there’s more to come from the talented Al-Ahly man.
Since helping the Dream Team VI to bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, 22-year old Ajayi has been progressing well, and has accrued good experience in Egyptian football.
He was also listed in the 2017 Caf best XI, beating the likes of Sadio Mane and Yacine Brahimi. Ajayi has had a hand in 37 goals (20 goals, 17 assists) in 65 apperances for the Red Devils and should get more game time in the national team to see what he can really offer to the frontline.
So in conclusion, there’s still more efforts to be put in by Gernot Rohr, as this Super Eagles still looks like a team still very much in progress. In the nearest future Nigeria could be a dangerous team to face only if they keep gaining and not loosing team players.