Eagles of hope: Nigeria’s Team B impress vs Atletico Madrid

By Daily Sports on May 23, 2018

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Millions of Nigerians stayed glued to their TV sets with eyes set for the interest of watching how the second rate team of the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles would fare against the newly crowned Europa League champions Athletics Madrid, a team replete with some of the most talks about and admired names in world football, in the GOV Max Cup.

So it was, that after 90 minutes of pulsating and largely entertaining soccer, Atletico pipped Nigeria 3-2 at the magnificent Nest of Champions Stadium in Uyo, Cross Rivers State. 

A Club had triumphed over a nation. But it wasn’t any ordinary club, it was a club with one of the meanest defensive records in international club football and a team made all the more fiery by a ferry character in their coach Diego Simeone, the former Argentine defender.

If this is the Super Eagles reserve team that isn’t World Cup bound, then they surely put up a respectable performance as they led once and pegged an Atletico team that is famed for having a stingy defence back once, only to succumb to a late goal in the end.

It was in many ways a showcase match.

For the coach Salisu Yusuf, it was an opportunity to square up against one of the stellar coaches in the world in Simeone. A home based coach testing his wits against a foreign coach with a great pedigree and a hugely talented team.

The scoreline, as the overall display of the Super Eagles made up of a melange of home based players and some foreign-based players yet to be established, suggests that Salisu didn’t do badly.

Salisu was lucky to call on a number of Nigerian stars based abroad who are doing impressively to crack the glass ceiling to the very top of World Club soccer. Chief amongst them was Kelechi Nwakali, the Arsenal man who has been on loan in the Dutch League.

Kelechi showcased what he’s made of at the highest level and what was on display was a beauty to behold. His vision, close control and silky movement showed all at the stadium and millions watching in TV that this is a player with enough savoir faire to make an impact with a tram as Arsenal talent wise.

Kelechi’s opener against one of the most highly rated goalkeepers around in Jan Oblak, a screamer of a  shot from way outside the box almost brought down the appreciative stadium and deservedly so.

There was no embarrassingly disappointing performance from the Nigerian team. The local lads showed heart and, like in the case of left back Ebube Duru, there were some displays that deserve a closer look with more serious opportunities.

Duru’s crosses were very well crafted, the C-curves in them caused trouble for the Atletico defence.

The composure of the young Lobi stars man gives hope for the future as Nigeria ponders a more permanent fix to a troubling problem of getting a consistently reliable left back for the long term.

It was a pity he had to go off the match injured, but before then he had done enough to wow Nigerians.

Now the focus returns to the main Super Eagles team that are going to do battle for their country in Russia in a couple of weeks.

If they mirror the fight and ability shown by the Team B against Argentina as is hoped, then a successful mundial is in the cards for Nigeria.

Source Daily Sports

Posted May 23, 2018

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