Super Eagles World Cup ouster: No hard feelings

By Daily Sports on June 27, 2018

Views: 417

A friend of mine snapped on my Facebook post in the immediate aftermath of Nigeria's painful 1-2 loss to Argentina on Tuesday night in the ongoing FIFA World Cup holding in Russia. He questioned my post which was captioned "Gallant Eagles bow out" by asking "what is gallant about this team?"

Such frustration and anger are nothing new and my friend can't be alone in harboring them. Taken on isolation, failing to qualify from a World Cup group is generally seen as failure for a country considered a power house of African football.

However, we must take things into more context and show respect for the energy levels and performances put in by a team who the Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr called an inexperienced side and one for the future. 

Going into the World Cup the Nigerian team had the toughest imaginable draw, pitted against Lionel Messi's Argentina, Croatia with their avalanche of stars led by (Luka Modric) who are in top clubs in the world, and of course Iceland, a dogged team who reached the semi-final of the European Nations Cup two years ago and topped their World Cup qualifying group. 

This is not to make excuses for the Super Eagles for failure to get beyond the first round of Group E. But it is to explain that the two teams who qualified did not deserve it less, even if the Nigerian lads gave their best. 

Apart from the first game against Croatia, when the Eagles failed to find much fluency throughout, the Super Edges bounced back and showed good character against Iceland (who they pummeled with Ahmed Musa leading the show with two beautiful goals) and Argentina. 

The Argentina game saw Nigeria struggle in the first half (as they have done in recent times) but rose like real gallant men in the second half. 

The Eagles matched and even looked better than the Argentines at times and scored with the calmest of penalties by Victor Moses. 

Substitute Odion Ighalo came to add more power in the second half and made Nigeria a more dangerous attacking unit in the second half. 

Nigerians can rightly look at some moments of the game and point to where the match was lost. The Eagles were unfortunate not to get two big penalty decisions their way, one in either half. 

Then there is the matter of the shape of the Eagles defence as Argentina went desperately in search of the equaliser. 

I felt with about 10 minutes to go the Eagles should have defended deeper and see off the game. But I noticed that the Nigerian last line of defence was usually some yards away from their 18-yard box.

This high line at the end became more problematic as Argentina threatened to run behind the defence as they did when Lionel scored in the first half and almost did so again in the second half, eliciting some furious protests from some Argentina players who thought Messi was illegally impeded. 

As well, I felt Moses was badly positioned for the Argentine second goal as he was too slow to read the danger. 

As a right wing back, especially when your team was defending a crucial point in the dying minutes, you should be looking to tuck in close to the center back near you and leave little or no space for an onrushing opponent to exploit from a cross. 

Moses, either out of tiredness or a sheer loss of concentration didn't do this and Marcos Rojo pounced and punish the Nigerians. 

It is Ighalo however (judging from many comments by Nigerians I've seen on social media) on whose head a lot of the blame lies. 

However, it should be said that it wasn't simply Ighalo's day to score and on another day, he might have converted the couple of chances he lost yesterday. 

As for Argentina, this big win represents another triumph over Nigeria in a World Cup game. The South Americans have won all their World Cup matches against Nigeria, but given the circumstances the Argentines found themselves with a disgraceful first round elimination staring them in the face, this win was their sweetest against the Super Eagles as the wild celebrations from the Argentine players and fans around the stadium showed.

Source Daily Sports

Posted June 27, 2018

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