It seems like forever since we last saw the Super Eagles play, no thanks to coronavirus. It has made the Super Eagles double-header friendlies against The Desert Foxes of Algeria and The Carthage Eagles of Tunisia all the more important. Interestingly, these two were the Super Eagles last opponents at the last African Cup of Nations. A defeat against Algeria in the Semi-final meant the Eagles had to meet Tunisia in the third-place match, which they never lose, from generation to generations.
Coah Gernot Rohr has played down trying to revenge the AFCON defeat against the Algerians. However, there are some interesting plots to looking forward to in the match.
Maduka with questions to answer
We have what is basically a new set of goalkeepers. Matthew Yakubu is new, Maduka Okoye has only made one substitute appearance, same as the returning Dele Alampasu. Tobias Lawal is also new but may not take part due to eligibility issues.
Whoever man the post for the Super Eagles will be making his first start. It will likely be Okoye, going by Rohr’s hints at his media conference yesterday. Okoye is also the most stable in the present team.
Questions have been raised about Okoye’s place in the team in the past, now he has the chance to show what he is capable of. Standing at 6ft 6 inches, he has a very good height for a goalkeeper. The Super Eagles have not had a stable number one for some time, Okoye could start laying claims to it ahead of the expected returns of Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Daniel Akpeyi and Francis Uzoho. Considering that Akpeyi and Ezenwa are already on the other side of 30, Maduka has the chance to displace Uzoho as the future.
A new Oyinbo wall in the offing
Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong built a strong partnership going into the 2018 World Cup. They were subsequently tagged the Oyinbo wall. Majorly due to injury and fitness issues, Balogun has not been regular lately. Troost-Ekong has remained consistent and has had to pair Kenneth Omeruo and Semi Ajayi at different times.
The coming of Kelvin Akpoguma means the status quo might be altered. Though Akpoguma is untested yet, he comes with huge reputation. Playing with Hoffenheim in the German Bundesliga, in terms of the league and the club he plays for, he ranks above the other defenders in the team.
It is likely it will become Akpoguma plus someone else at the heart of the defence very soon, most likely a new Oyinbo wall.
Rohr’s midfield altered
If there is one area that Rohr hardly touches in his team, it is the base of his midfield. Wilfred Ndidi and Oghenekaro Etebo are his most consistent partnership there. In Etebo’s absence in recent times, he has had to partner Ndidi with Joe Aribo, who performed excellently.
While we were still waiting for what will happen when Etebo returns, the trio became unavailable due to injuries. It means Rohr has to play a new set of midfielders.
Mikel Agu, Frank Onyeka and Samson Tijani are the options in camp. Agu is returning to the team, he is one player Rohr fancies but we have not seen much of him yet. He is expected to partner new boy Midtylland’s Frank Onyeka. 18-year-old Samson Tijani is the other option, not much is expected of him yet. With Ndidi, Etebo and Aribo expected to return, the present midfielders may be playing for one slot. It will be nice to see how the new midfield performs.
The battle for Osimhen’s deputy
Victor Osimhen is the Super Eagles undisputed number 9 right now. He is not available due to COVID 19 regulations. Paul Onuachu has been called up to replace him. Since scoring that stunner against Egypt in a friendly post 2019 AFCON, Onuachu has not been impressive for the Super Eagles. He has however been in good form for his club KRC Genk. He has the chance to prove to Rohr that his massive frame is needed in the Super Eagles.
Onuachu’s club teammate, Cyril Dessers is expected to make his debut. Not much is known about him than he was the Eredivisie top scorer last season. He has to prove he can be trusted to be Osimhen’s deputy or competitor when called upon.
There’s also the matter of Kelechi Iheanacho, who is more of a forward these days. He has to win Rohr’s trust back, he has not scored for the Super Eagles since 2017.
In all, the friendly match will be one to enjoy. The Algerians have never been easy opponents and are not expected to be but we are expecting a good performance from the Super Eagles.
Written by Tomiwa Ojo @10qmedia on Twitter.
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