Nigeria dismissed Algeria with a 3-1 win on Saturday at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo to open up a four point gap at the top of their 2018 World Cup qualifying group.
Two goals from Victor Moses, either side of teammate John Obi Mikel’s strike helped seal the deal despite some nail-biting moments occasioned by Nabil Bentaleb’s ferocious drive from distance.
Here are five thoughts from the match:
It’s hard to imagine what Algeria were thinking when they decided to travel with their own water and bedding.
OK, water one can almost understand, even if they can just go off into supermarkets and buy water if they’re worried about anyone spiking their drink at the five-star Le Meridien hotel.
But how does one explain seeing all their players arrive clutching their own pillows and pillowcases?
If the objective was win, well… how did that work out?
With two natural No. 9’s in his squad, Gernot Rohr decided to start with Kelechi Iheanacho who, for all intents and purposes, is a No. 9 and half.
The Manchester City starlet did a competent job of leading the line, but it’s clear that this is not his forte.
Iheanacho would rather play with a second striker in front of him, facing the defence, rather than with his back to goal. And because he was getting double-teamed, the 20-year-old mostly stuck to returning balls played to him vertically and got very few opportunities to sneak in behind or get a shot off.
But hey, the team won. That’s what matters and Rohr can chalk another one in his wins column.
Neither Odion Ighalo nor Brown Ideye saw any minutes. And Ideye has been on a goalscoring spree in Greece.
Ahmed Musa did not come on until late in the second half, while Shehu Abdullahi and Wilfred Ndidi showed remarkable poise and ability when they did come on.
And this is without even looking to the talent outside the squad like Victor Osimhen and Taiwo Awoniyi, as well as uncommitted players like Kennedy Otigba, and refuseniks like Tyronne Ebuehi and Isaac Success, who can still make the squad.
Rohr is gradually building a deep and talented side. And here’s the kicker, they are all mostly within the 25 and below age range. This could be ominous for the rest of Africa going forward.
What would a Nigeria success story be if not blighted by the shadow of money issues?
Nigeria’s players have still not been paid their winning bonuses for the last game against Zambia. There is little indication they will get paid for that, or for this win against Algeria anytime soon.
Unlike in the past when this would have been a major source of confrontation, the players have decided to stay calm and just play until they achieve the World Cup ticket.
Captain Mikel said at the prematch news conference the team did not want the distraction of money troubles getting in the way of reaching their objectives.
Obviously, after that, all bets are off.
Plenty of people have been running around with the idea that the Godswill Akpabio Stadium is bad luck for the Super Eagles.
All on the basis of two games. They lost 1-0 in a friendly there to Uganda, and drew 2-2 with South Africa, which cost them a place at the 2015 African Nations Cup.
But here’s the thing, no context is provided for those results. For the first, with then coach Stephen Keshi’s contract situation in flux, his then assistant Daniel Amokachi was tasked with putting a team of local lads together for a friendly within days, to play against a Cranes team that had been training together for months.
In the second, an injury to key holding midfielder Hope Akpan the previous game left Nigeria’s midfield compromised, and defender Kenneth Omeruo had not fully recovered from a bout of malaria. Yet the team clawed back from a 2-0 deficit to keep up the Super Eagles record of never losing to Bafana Bafana.
It’s similar to the same baseless “jinx” associated with Nigeria playing in white strip after bad results.
Whatever it is, proper preparation, good long-term planning and the right, in-form personnel will definitely bust any so called jinx.
The Eagles proved it by winning in white against Zambia, then beating Algeria convincingly at the Uyo stadium.
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