25 April 2018

Nigeria: 50 Days to Russia 2018 - Super Eagles Need a Potent Striker

Photo: Super Eagles/Twitter
Super Eagles

Brazil won the 1994 World Cup but amongst the 23-man squad was a certain Ronaldo De Lima, who did not get a single minute of action in the USA. Four years later, at France 1998, he took Brazil to that epileptic final and then won the 2002 World Cup in South Korea/Japan.

Less than 50 days to the start of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Nigeria's national football team manager, Gernot Rohr, is still looking for a potent striker to add to his 23-man squad as some players wonder whether they can still gatecrash the party!

Where Rohr has already thrown his hat in the ring concerning Francis Uzoho for the goalkeeping spot, there are still some available slots to fill, especially in attack.

What is lacking in the team's attack?

I conducted a short survey of journalists and football enthusiasts and the words or statements that came forth describing the Super Eagles attack included but not limited to: a lack of creativity, ruthlessness, intelligence, invention, and versatility.

For Oluwashina Okeleji, a football writer, it is a lack of deadly accuracy in front of goal. "The team doesn't have a deadly finisher and playing one striker upfront with a lack of creativity in the midfield contributes. Change of formation could help," he advised.

Biola Kazeem believes "All we [Eagles] have is pace and a lot of running. Very little subtlety," he added rather sarcastically.

He may have a valid point if the tactical analysis of the last two friendly matches against Poland and Serbia is considered. The Eagles were short of invention in the final third in both matches and struggled to create any meaningful scoring chances in the four halves of football.

To drive home the point; against Poland, the only shot the Eagles had on target was the penalty from Victor Moses.

For Adeyemi Adesanya, who talks sports on Radio, "we [Eagles] lack midfielders that are inventive; we have more of workman-like midfielders. This assertion means the strikers will continue to struggle to get goals.

"There is also a lack of invention from the wide areas; the delivery, decision making and final ball from our wingers are even worse.

"Our strikers are one-dimensional; more of battering ram strikers; no versatility; no striker that can seize the initiative to make things happen for himself; like the days of the Bull [Daniel Amokachi] or a Sergio Aguero-type striker," Adesanya added.

Rotimi Akindele concurred with Adesanya, adding that the Eagles need to find someone who will score regularly. "Eagles need a potent striker, a good finisher and a creative offensive player with pace and trickery."

Semiu Osho would not place his bets on this squad, especially the attackers. "This is probably the most frustrating assemblage we could ever have going to the World Cup.

"Odion [Ighalo], [Ahmed] Musa, [Alex] Iwobi and [Victor] Moses - are all players notorious for profligacy in front of goal. Our strikers lack composure,"Osho added.

Ken Ochonogor was however caustic in his assessment. "The Eagles definitely lack proficiency in attack. Is the total number of goals scored by Ighalo, Iheanacho, and Iwobi up to Salah's?

So how did this team - bereft of all these qualities -- emerge from a group that contained Cameroon, Zambia, and Algeria?

Adesanya replied, "We were just lucky."

"Take a look at the friendlies we have played; were we dominant or did we impose ourselves on those games? "No. Instead, some of our limitations were exposed and more tactically astute and organised teams curtailed our so-called qualities.

Can any of these four be a solution?

Henry Onyekuru [20]; Olanrewaju Kayode [24]; Umar Sadiq [21]; and Simeon 'Simy' Nwankwo [25]

The media spokesperson for the Eagles, Toyin Ibitoye, revealed to Okeleji in an interview that Rohr has not closed his doors - a notion magnified in an interview with Channels.

"The prospect of Henry Onyekuru coming back after his injury will be a fantastic one," Tayo Adetunji said before adding the caveat, "I hope he is very fit enough before the games begin."

If he is then, "He possesses such fantastic pace and creativity upfront that would complement the efforts of Victor Moses, Moses Simon, and Ighalo.

But Nnamdi Okosieme believes there is no problem with the attacking players in the Eagles but that they can be better assembled. "I think the attack is okay. We have enough personnel in that department to deliver. What is needed is greater coordination.

"Rohr seems not to have made up his mind of the leading player(s). This coupled with the lassitude of the players in the midfield present a challenge for the team.

But Adesanya is not optimistic - a line toed by Kazeem, with their argument being that Nigeria does not possess a world-class striker at the moment.

"At the qualification level; these qualities or lack of may go undetected but at the world stage, it will be severely punished."

Adepoju Tobi believes the team is not doing enough for the strikers to make hay. "The team needs a clinical striker, and connectivity from the midfield must improve.

"We have seen strikers in Super Eagles do a lot of work than just staying up in the final third to finish up perfect final balls.

"Sometimes the Super Eagles don't create many scoring chances in games and a clinical striker inside the box will be very useful, converting ratio must be high from the chances created."

Victor Agali, former Super Eagles striker, and now the Nigeria Football Federation's chief scout told the Vanguard that, "He [Rohr] will decide on that. I can't comment on if he will stick with the ones he has tested and know or not, but maybe one or two new faces, just maybe," Agali added.

Less than 50 days to the start of the World Cup, the only definite choice of striker for the Super Eagles is Ighalo and maybe Kelechi Iheanacho. Ighalo has scored five goals in seven matches in the Chinese Super League while Iheanacho can only boast of a paltry one goal in 24 appearances.

Surely, Rohr is still looking for a potent striker to add to his Russia-bound team!

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