On November 17, 2023, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) officially launched the “Let’s do it Again” campaign, aiming to propel the Super Eagles of Nigeria to secure another Africa Cup of Nations victory. Before the tournament commenced last night, numerous celebrities voiced their support for the campaign, endorsing the Super Eagles to clinch their fourth AFCON title, the last of which was secured in 2013.
Certainly, campaigns alone don’t secure trophies, but substantial support can provide the encouragement needed for a team to clinch victory. Today, the spotlight was on the individuals who would be responsible for making the “Let’s do it Again” mantra a reality as the Super Eagles of Nigeria began their journey to triumph once more, facing Equatorial Guinea.
The Eagles launched their campaign against Equatorial Guinea, securing a 1 -1 draw. Not the Start many would have expected, but still a fair result. The goal from Africa’s Player of the Year, Victor Osimhen, in the 38th minute put Nigeria back in the game having conceded in the 36th minute.
It was Nigeria’s 3rd draw in the opener of their 20th African Cup of Nations appearance, (12 W, 3 D, 5 L) making it their 23rd draw in a total of 98 AFCON matches so far (53 W, 23 D, 22 L).
Given this performance, are there indications that the Super Eagles can do it again?
In this piece, Timothy Dehinbo analyse a breathless match
Nigeria’s uncertain defense and difficulty in protecting the edge of the area.
Nigeria allowed a goal, but the type they conceded was not ideal. Equatorial Guinea’s Iban Salvador scored a curler with their first shot on target, from an XG of 0.17, taking the lead in the 36th minute and catching Stanley Nwabali by surprise.
Nigeria hasn’t secured a clean sheet in five games, and there’s some worry about their defensive stability, as they seem a bit more vulnerable at the back.
The Super Eagles conceded a brilliantly scored but preventable goal due to the excessive space and the inability to quickly close down the opponent. This issue was evident in many instances, especially when Equatorial Guinea attempted to counter or approached the edge of Nigeria’s area. It’s a significant concern, and Jose Peseiro needs to address this promptly.
The Super Eagles lack Finesse in front of goal
The Super Eagles of Nigeria had 8 significant opportunities in this match, taking a total of 19 shots with an XG of 3.28. So, why couldn’t they score more? In a game where possession was evenly split, the Super Eagles generated numerous chances, making it puzzling why they couldn’t convert many. The lack of clinical finishing at certain moments prevented them from securing three points. In football, scoring goals is crucial for winning games, and for a team aiming for the trophy, missing numerous opportunities is not ideal.
Osimhen set a good record, but left Nigerians disappointed; it shouldn’t have been him.
Osimhen’s equalizer was his 21st goal for the Super Eagles, in his 27th game. Putting him level with Yakubu Aiyegbeni as the 3rd top scorer for Nigeria.
In a key moment when the team needed a goal, many looked to the African Player of the Year and a skilled striker in Osimhen. Nigerians hoped for their star player in the late minutes, receiving a well-played ball from Alex Iwobi. However, Victor, in a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, missed what looked like a sure goal. Although scored the goal that made Nigeria not lose, it was a crucial moment and chance, and if anyone was going to miss it, it ideally shouldn’t have been Victor.
Al Hassan put on a respectable performance.
When Al Hassan Yusuf was taken off on a stretcher in the 69th minute, it was a bit disheartening. Despite the injury’s impact on the team, Al Hassan had a decent showing, briefly reassuring Nigerians that he could step in for Wilfred Ndidi. He was active on the field, winning 7 out of 12 ground duels, making 3 ball recoveries, and becoming the most fouled player in the match, all without playing the full 90 minutes. His performance on his competitive debut was solid, giving Nigerians a hopeful option in the defensive midfield position, potentially filling Ndidi’s shoes. Hopefully, he recovers in time for the next game.
The Build Up has to come through the middle
We have a surplus of central midfielders who excel in ball distribution rather than winning duels, but why does Jose Peseiro’s team struggle to play through the middle? In this game, numerous long balls were employed, and while it occasionally succeeded in finding Osimhen and capitalizing on his hold-up play, utilizing the skill set of these midfielders, who are adept at using the ball, should also be considered.
There’s also a need for a good creator in the middle, Iwobi looks to tick that box, but most times he gets missing. This needs a fix.
Lookman appears to have found his rhythm and seems poised to be Eagles elite creator.
Despite not having a steady place with the Super Eagles, Lookman had a decent performance. He actively tried to create goal-scoring chances, playing on the left, right, and in the middle. When he moved towards the opponent’s goal, he did well. Nigeria has struggled with delivering good crosses, especially for a striker like Osimhen, but Lookman did a good job with it, and his cross led to the assist for Osimhen. While there’s room for improvement, Lookman seems capable of handling the responsibility of creating opportunities.
Unfortunately, Nwabali wasn’t tested
Sure, it’s not ideal to have your goalkeeper constantly tested, but seeing Nwabali in action tested today would have been beneficial for Nigerians. With Francis Uzoho, who has been the main goalkeeper for a while, not looking very confident lately, Stanley Nwabali was called up to the tournament and immediately got into action. However, he had minimal involvement, making no saves in the game, as Equatorial Guinea had just one shot on target. Nevertheless, he showed proficiency in claiming aerial balls. As Nigeria prepares to face hosts Cote d’Ivoire on Thursday, there’s an expectation that he gets a lot of tests.
We did well to recover from going a goal down, but this is a bad start. We’re on the back foot ahead of the Cote d’Ivoire game. Can the Super Eagles do it Again in Cote d’ivoire?