Even as the daggers remain out and a lot of critics are still going for the jugulars of Coach Gernot Rohr, the Super Eagles and the NFF, a large section still believes what happened in Benin last Friday was a mistake. Luckily, the players have the chance to prove that now. No Nigerian expected the result, not even Rohr’s biggest critics. Only punters that went for goals would have escaped losing their money betting on the Super Eagles.
It is probably a positive that the team plays again, just four days after, against the same opponents. Going back to their clubs immediately after the travesty that happened in Benin wouldn’t have been good. It would have created lots of gaps. However, there is a chance at redemption and further embarrassment is not expected as such may come with dire consequences. Lessons have been learnt and here are some corrections we are suggesting Rohr should make.
Akpeyi in goal
This should be a no-brainer, Maduka Okoye should not remain in goal. While it also sounds odd that there could be a clamour for Daniel Akpeyi, it is the safest thing to do. Akpeyi has also not always inspired confidence in goal for the Eagles but Okoye’s below par performance in Benin means he should be taken off the firing line. Sebastien Osigwe is untested and this is no time for another experiment.
Akpeyi was in goal in the first two qualifiers and he was not really bad. It is assumed Okoye only got reward for his performances in the last friendlies with his first official start against the Leone Stars in Benin.
Akpeyi should come with a better command of the defence and should at least be more confident than Okoye.
A More Balanced Midfield
Oghenekaro Etebo and Joe Aribo as the holding midfielders exposed the defence, in what was like a 4-4-2 formation. Aribo particularly had his poorest performance for the Super Eagles. Etebo was the better of the duo and should definitely keep his place, even if Aribo will still start, there should be an added midfielder. Someone that can provide more cover for the defence. Abdulahi Shehu and Semi Ajayi are the options Rohr can deploy into midfield, following his lopsided invitations that ensured lack of options in midfield, in the first place.
A return to a 4-3-3 is expected with Alex Iwobi expected to return to the middle as the attacking midfielder.
Ejuke or Dennis on the wings
Ahmed Musa should not be starting but to be fair, he was not the problem last Friday. It is however not fair and appropriate that a player without a club is starting for the Super Eagles, ahead of active players. With Iwobi returning to the middle, it opens the space for a left wing-forward. With Samuel Chukwueze starting on the right and one of Kelechi Iheanacho and Paul Onuachu as the center-forward.
We have seen glimpses of Emmanuel Dennis and Chidera Ejuke, and we have seen signs of quality. If they are not good enough to play against Sierra Leone, it means they are not good enough to be in the Super Eagles. We did not see much of Ejuke when he came on in the first leg, a start will help us see more of him.
Another option is playing Iheanacho there, with Onuachu as the center-forward. But that will be an attack lacking the pace needed to put the Leone Stars on the back foot.
The Leone Stars know and saw a confirmation of why they should be scared of Chukwueze, they will probably prepare for him. Having something else hit them from the other wing will be a masterstroke. This is a match for Rohr to properly deploy the attacking talents at his disposal.
A 4-1-4-1 like we saw against Tunisia in the last friendly is another option, with a midfielder screening the defense behind a four moving in blocs and pressing the opponents high up.
Whoever plays and whatever formation or style, anything short of a win will intensify the pressure and lots of questions will be asked.