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Posted by Kingsley Okiwelu on 05/26/2010

The Super Eagles have kicked off their preparations for the World cup with a barren draw against a more cohesive and organized Saudi Arabia side. Those who were expecting fireworks and an inspired, rejuvenated performance from the Nigerian team would have been sorely disappointed as the Super Eagles put in a disjointed, sedentary display and were second best to a Saudi team who were comfortable on the ball and inventive, even if they lacked the end product to make more of their endeavour.

The temptation to completely write off Lagerback’s team will be strong, however this rather insipid performance has to be judged against the fact that it was the Swede’s first game in charge and the comments he’d earlier made indicating he would be using the game more for experimental purposes and to test out some of the more fringe elements of the Nigerian squad.

In his own words, “If you take this first practice match, we have looked for a bit of playing time for the players. It's just as I have done previously with the Swedish team. If we had Swedish players who hadn't been playing that much then we prioritised them, and that will be a factor now as well. But now it's also about to become acquainted with as many players as possible. We have quite a few offensive players in this group, so maybe we can test them a little bit to see if they can cope with both the offensive and defensive."

Viewed against the backdrop of his comments, we probably shouldn’t read too much into the listless performance put up by the Super Eagles. However the game should have provided Lagerback with some insights into what is possible to improve upon and the pitfalls he has to avoid.

So, what were we able to glean? First and foremost, let’s examine the formation. On the evidence of what we saw yesterday, it will be a tall order for the Nigerian side to adjust seamlessly to Lagerback’s preferred 4-4-2 system. The reason for this is simple. The Nigerian team as currently constituted does not have the players to make the most of this system. The absence of Natural wide men in the squad means that insisting on this formation will rid the team of the required balance. Unlike the case with say England who can call upon wide men with varying qualities ( the pace of Walcott, the trickery of Lennon or the work Ethic of Milner) Lagerback would have to rely on players like Odemwingie, Anichebe and Obasi, all good players but players who would basically be square pegs in round holes if they are to play in a traditional 4-4-2 format. Just how uncomfortable they could be was evident from the performances of Obasi and Anichebe yesterday.

While Obasi put in a hardworking shift, regularly supporting the impressive, Terna Suswan at right back, he seemed to find the role somewhat restricting and was unable to break out of his apparent shackles and provide the sort of foraging runs we became accustomed to seeing him make in a more expansive 4-3-3 format. Anichebe too seemed to be caught in two minds about whether his role was predominantly a sort of back up striker, picking up the scraps behind the front two, and making incisive runs through the channels or that of a midfield grafter, simply there to put in the hard work in keeping things tight down the left flank. In the end, he was able to perform neither with any particular distinction even though he showed some good strength and made a couple of decent runs.

The middle of the park didn’t function much better. The gaping chasm between the midfield and the attack continued to be a feature of the Super Eagles as there was very little link up play between the two holding players, Haruna Lukman and Ayila Yusuf and the initial front pairing of Kanu and Kalu Uche. Both front men were particularly disappointing and made no attempts to either drop into midfield to pick up the ball or make runs into the channels. The result was a very pedestrian looking midfield even though Lukman did show some flashes of individual brilliance to suggest that he may very well merit a place on the plane to South Africa.

On the whole, the deploying of a 4-4-2 formation seemed to be borne more out of a desire by Lagerback to keep faith with his footballing principles than out of any motive to play to the strengths of the Nigerian side. Lagerback could not have been pleased with the results and should now know that he has to either revert to the tried and trusted 4-3-3 or utilise a system that will both satisfy his obvious desire to keep things tight in Midfield and allow our midfielders and Forwards play with some freedom.

The second benefit of last Night’s game would have been the opportunity it presented for him to trim down his squad. A few players by their performances indicated that they couldn’t make the grade and should be dropped. The first on my list in this regard would be Kalu Uche. He has turned in some uninspiring performances in recent times for the Eagles but last night’s probably capped the lot. He offered absolutely nothing in attack and it would be a real travesty if he makes the final cut. Another player who didn’t inspire much confidence was right back Chidi Ordia who seemed to put every foot wrong after coming in as a second half substitute. Perhaps he could get one more opportunity but with time running out he had better put in a much improved shift or forget about making the final 23.

On the upside, two players distinguished themselves and showed that they deserve a further look in. Terna Suswan showed no nerves considering this was his National team debut and looked assured and completely at ease at right full back. Haruna Lukman also showed a lot of industry as well as a bit of creativity late on and provided ample evidence that he may indeed prove to the missing piece of the jigsaw that is the Eagles Midfield.

My final Verdict? There’s precious little time left for experimenting and Lagerback has to get back to basics.


Posted by Oto Idiong on 05/28/2010

Nice analysis you have there but I differ on your submissions on Kanu. Haruna was a little selfish as he always is he did not give one good pass. One of the greatest performers of the day was yusuf ayila. i think he should be on the plane to SA

Posted by KINGSLEY I.E on 05/28/2010

Every writer in Nigeria seems to be more intersted in picking the team and formation of play for a Coach instade of doing there own jobs.I dont know the qualification anybody have to choose formation for Lagerback.Please let the man do his job,if he is use to 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 thats his choice all the players need to do is play according to instruction thats what they are paid for.If Inter Millan players did not change there pattern of play after the introduction of Jose becouse its customary they wount be Champions League winniers today.Therfore any player that is not comfortable with the Coaches pley style dont have any bussiness in the team at all.However the players will integrate and understand themself as they play together more,besides i think Chidi Odia did well within the few minute he was on the pitch,the choice of who goes to world cup should be left for Lagerback,without all these writeups to influence his decission

Posted by Peter Nwachukwu on 05/28/2010

I have this feeling that our new coach will do very well with the squad he has now, all I can say after the dismal show yesterday was that we have known Nigerian squad as squad that prepares badly when it comes to prepare for a tournament. All things been equal, if the new coach can establish his authority, I have no qualms with what the super eagles will do in the world cup proper.


Posted by Biola on 05/28/2010

We all know that this crop of players leave much to be desired.May God help us all

Posted by james kika on 05/29/2010

Super eagles will do well at the world cup because they do better when you dont expect from them that has been nigeria way of game since 1980. so expect to see them in the last 8 cause i have already dreamt about the competition before now.

Posted by JAMIU ADARAN on 05/29/2010


Posted by Ikechukwu Mbonu on 05/29/2010

4-3-3 seems an exciting prospect on paper with the players we have, but seeing the CON matches we played it was woeful. The truth is that we need a creative player in the Middle, Mikel is NOT the Answer he is neither this not that and i hope Lagerback realizes this. Having said that im also afraid 4-4-2 will leave us exposed easily. We certainly have the personnel but it is up to the coach to mix it up well. As for me the first names on the team sheet would be Odewingie and Taiwo.

Posted by Anonymous on 05/29/2010


Posted by Emy Ude on 05/29/2010

Super Eagles has enough talented players to make a very good impact in the tournament or even get to the finals, but using the boys wrongly might spell doom for us. With little time left before 2010 world cup kick off, I think Lagerback should revert to the 4-3-3 system that the boys know and are used to. That way they will be more productive. What we need now is results...not a new football culture.

Having said that, I also think (hope) that Lagerback knows what he is doing and that he got the answers he wanted with his experintal squad. All we need to do now is pray for them and wish them.

Go Eagles! Go lagerback!! We are solidly behind you ...the whole nine yards!

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