Some observation from Nigeria’s loss to Algeria in the semi-finals of AFCON 2019.
The goal came with the last kick of the game that was going into extra-time after Nigeria had come back from 1- down-courtesy of an own-goal by William Troost-Ekong in the first half- with an equaliser from an Odion Ighalo penalty.
These are five things we learnt from the game.
1: Dearth of quality in the goalkeeping department
Daniel Akpeyi failed to save the Super Eagles against Algeria (Getty Images)
Nigeria’s 2-1 loss to Algeria on Sunday highlighted the dearth of quality in the Super Eagles goalkeeping department. Daniel Akpeyi was the first choice at AFCON 2019 which turned out to be a failed experiment.
Against Algeria, he was at fault at both goals that Nigeria conceded especially the second which was directed at his side, away from the wall which he set-up before Mahrez’s freekick.
Akpeyi never showed that he was Nigeria’s answer in the goalkeeping department in any game in AFCON 2019 and with Francis Uzoho and Ikechukwu Ezenwa also tried and unproved, the search for Super Eagles number one goalkeeper is truly on.
2. Ndidi not at his best with the Super Eagles
Wilfred Ndidi was not at his best for the Super Eagles against Algeria and the whole of AFCON 2019 (FADEL SENNA/AFP/Getty Images)
A great team is often made by playing to the strength of it’s best player but this is what Super Eagles boss Gernot Rohr has failed to do with his team.
Wilfred Ndidi, the only player who is in the conversation with some of the best in the world in his position is unarguably the best player in Rohr’s tea, but the coach’s failure to play to his strength has hindered the Super Eagles.
Rohr’s 4-2-3-1 setup although the tournament has stopped Ndidi from doing what he knows how to do best, which is the sit in front of the defence and display his tackling brilliance. Instead, the Leicester City star is required to be more on the ball and press further up the pitch with his midfield partner Oghenekaro Etebo.
This setup against Algeria made Ndidi very uncomfortable, he was very unimaginative with the ball and his constant pressing made him lose the focus of defending in front of his back-four. Rohr must make Ndidi go back to his basics to bring out the best in him for the Super Eagles.
3. Quality won
Riyad Mahrez showed quality to win the game for Algeria (CAF)
In Algeria, the Super Eagles got their stiffest challenge of AFCON 2019 and lost to a better team. It was quality that got the better of the day. Quality in coaching, organisation and player.
Mahrez, unarguably the best player on the pitch who won the game for Algeria to live up to his name. He showed his class by dribbling past Jamilu Collins before his cross which was turned in for an own-goal and it was him who also stepped up to score from a freekick with the last kick of the game.
4. Rohr fails again
Rohr’s Super Eagles were not inspiring at AFCON 2019
Algeria have been the best side in AFCON 2019. A well-organised, drilled and tactically-aware side that plays with enthusiasm and vim.
It is what we are yet to see with the Super Eagles under Rohr.
5. Mahrez shows Chukwueze what he could be
Samuel Chukwueze (CAF)
Samuel Chukwueze has been the Super Eagles revelation of the tournament following especially after his Man of the Match performance against South Africa in the quarter-finals. Algeria paid very close attention to him, denying the Villarreal star the space to create havoc and ended up making him ineffective.
If he is to go ahead and fulfil his potential, he must look at Mahrez who played the same role as him for the opposition team. Chukwueze possesses similar skill sets as Mahrez as they both left-footed forwards who play on the right side of the attack.
Mahrez didn’t run the game from start to finish, what he did was pick his moment to show his quality in defining moments. It was what Chukwueze couldn’t which showed their difference in class.