This week’s awesome friendly against Ukraine marked an important inflexion point for the next phase of the Super Eagles rebuild as fans were exposed to some sumptuous and scintillating displays by the young Super Eagles assembled by Rohr.
With a starting 11 featuring players all 25 or under (except for captain William Troost-Ekong), this was a telling glimpse into what the future holds for the Nigeria national team.
At the end of the day, the scores were level, but an exciting, end-to-end game had ensued, and Nigerian fans got the first glimpse of a player of whom many a song will soon be composed.
Aribo is the name, the way and manner in which he buried his goal defined his game. A diving header that was destined for the net but for the dare-devil heroics of the Ukraine goalkeeper could have been the spice in Aribo’s Super Eagles debut jollof rice.
Back to the match,in shipping two goals in a minute to throw away a two-goal lead, the inexperience and lack of game management that comes with youth came to the fore in Dnipro.
The timing of Rohr’s substitutions and his overall lack of flexibility and dynamism also contributed to the loss of the 2 goals advantage.
There were the coruscating counter-attacking display that really could have seen the Super Eagles go up by as much as four inside the opening half alone.
The sheer pace of the front four, with debutant Joe Aribo joining in, overmanned the Ukraine defence time and again.
In Samuels Kalu and Chukwueze, there were nimble footwork and menace, and the latter in particular was guilty of some poor decision-making, electing to shoot on a few occasions when he might have been better served sliding in a teammate.
People forget how young Iwobi is and how much he has given to the Super Eagles since his debut in
2015. His skill, trickery and pace are an asset for the super Eagles. However, the former Arsenal man would need to improve on his finishing, be more consistent and be more tactically astute if we are to class him among top quality elite players like Mahrez, Sane and Salah.
Super Eagles Prospect
The future of the Super Eagles looks tantalizing and we can't be wide off the mark to expect stellar performances from this set of players for the national team.
To be honest, the expectations from the fans have never for once dropped and Nigeria, filled with football lovers, will be expecting Rohr to mould these exciting, bright, young and dynamic talents – many of whom are playing in decent clubs across Europe – into a formidable force; one able to hold its own against high calibre football nations in the coming 3 seasons (and beyond).
Rohr’s brand of football is not the finished article!
A lot of work will need to be done by Gernot Rohr: the team's tactical awareness is still deficient, loss of concentration in key moments - an example is Ukraine equalizer and also Riyad Mahrez’s winning goal against Nigeria in the just concluded Nations Cup (not to talk of the goal the knocked Nigeria out of the World Cup against Argentina last summer) - continue to plague Rohr-tutored sides in key moments.
We need to concentrate and be composed, we need to understand when to keep the ball, when to play it long, when to hit on a counter and when to slow play down.
We need to have plan b when things are not going to plan.
We also need to play with more panache and verve. We are no longer underdogs; we should position ourselves as top dogs and these should reflect in Press Conferences.
Our finishing also needs to improve, Victor Osimhen was impressive upfront for the Eagles, the Lille Forward understood the game, he held up play when it was necessary and linked up with our wingers marvellously well.
He would have scored more goals if he was put through on goal when Chukwueze had the opportunity to. Selfishness is not too bad if it results in goals more often than not. Unfortunately, Chukwueze’s selfishness was fruitless on the night.
The future of Nigeria football is bright and we as fans have every right to be optimistic.
The friendly against Ukraine ended 2:2. The next competitive fixture of the Super Eagles is an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Benin on 11 November.