Ladan Bosso proved his tactical astuteness on Wednesday as he led Nigeria's U-20 team to shock hosts Argentina and book a quarter-final ticket
It was a shocking win, but it was also a comfortable victory for Ladan Bosso and Nigeria's U-20 team on Wednesday as they dispatched hosts Argentina to book a quarterfinal ticket where they will have no fear of facing either South Korea or Ecuador.
While Argentina had 66 per cent ball possession and 19 goal-scoring chances, the Flying Eagles were clinical and proved to be more technically savvy in deploying a system that comfortably kept Argentina at arm's length.
1. Team's total defensive mindedness
Ladan Bosso set up his team in a familiar 4-3-3 shape. However, the formation was more akin to a 4-2-3-1 with Ibrahim Muhammad and Jude Sunday on the flanks. Sunday and Muhammad were placed more defensively, with Lawal Fago acting as a lone attacker in the centre. Muhammad's clearance in the box in the first half encapsulates the defensive work.
After Valentin Carboni broke through the lines in the 40th minute and fed Romero who would have been one-on-one with Kingsley Aniagboso, Muhammad made a goal-saving clearance for a corner kick. Also, Bosso followed in the footsteps of Brighton by having his players man-mark the Argentines all over the pitch, which meant that every player was responsible for defending a man rather than a space.
2. Compact defensive lines
The entire team held a compact defensive shape, but the back six were particularly effective. With instructions clearly given to fullbacks, Daniel Bameyi and Solomon Agbalaka, not to bomb on from their defensive positions, there was not much space for the Argentines to explore to get into the Nigerian box.
The intentional positions the back-four took overloaded the central defensive parts of the final third, and they left their wingers to hold the width and defend both the Argentine wingers and fullbacks. It played out as planned for Bosso and his boys, as Argentina were unable to produce as many crosses as they planned toward Alejo Veliz, whose three goals in the tournament had come through headers.
3. Sterling work by Daga and Nnadi
While the entire team, including the substitutes who came on, performed to 110 per cent, more mention should be made, especially about Daniel Daga and Tochukwu Nadi, who did more than anyone else to disrupt the Argentines. Daga's qualities as a defensively-minded player went up a notch as he produced a masterful display in reading the game and blocking the attacking outlets the Javier Mascherano-coached team tried to create.
Nadi alongside Daga proved to be a decisive outlet for the ball, in between the lines and especially occupying the space where Argentina's creators - Romero and Carboni - wanted to operate.
4. Psychological fearlessness
From the referee's whistle, the Flying Eagles demonstrated to the 27,000 vociferous Argentina fans in the San Juan Stadium that they would not be cowed. The team played on the front foot, played out of defence, and were not afraid to receive balls between the lines. They won the first two corner kicks, though they did not create any goal-scoring chances. They were confident in possession and did not allow the Argentines to get up a full head of steam and build unrelenting pressure on the defenders.
5. Luck at dangerous times
On another day, Argentina could have scored at least thrice from the goal-scoring chances they created. In the 44th minute, Valentin Carboni's shot could have gone in via a deflection. Also, Alejo Veliz should have scored from five yards immediately from kickoff when Nigeria went ahead.
Another chance came in the 83rd minute when Luka Romero's shot hit Aniagboso's left post and rebounded to safety, but the best chance was that to Gino Infantino, who should have equalised in the 84th minute, but his goal-bound shot from four yards was blocked by Abel Ogwuche. The Nigerians lived dangerously, but they did not come to any danger in the end.