Are Nigeria Fans Dissatisfied With Ugbade For Eaglets Narrow Loss To Morocco?
With such high expectations and lofty ambitions going into this U-17 Afcon, this week’s slim 1:0 loss to Morocco leaves Nigeria’s World Cup qualification chances hanging by a thread.
With the worst possible start of an own goal with the match just 2 minutes old, Ugbade’s boys were unable to fashion a route back into the tie with more than 90 minutes to play – which to me speaks to their lack of resourcefulness.
It’s hard for me to see the direction of this team as they struggle badly to carve out neat, incisive and credible goal scoring chances.
Ugbade’s boys did ask questions of the Moroccan defence. But these were questions that Morocco had answers to.
Is it me or are we struggling to produce (young) players who are confident on the ball with credible take-on capabilities? For their first goal, the Moroccan defender took out his marker with fancy foot flimflammery before floating an in-swinger that crashed the back of the net off a wicked deflection from Ogboji.
As for our players, they seem to struggle to wriggle their way out of tight situations.
Granted, the Moroccans crowded out our players particularly in the early stages but this in itself should have provided opportunities for Nigeria as it would have created gaps elsewhere for the Eaglets to explore. The intelligence to identify such opportunities was deficient.
The funny thing is, I don’t think the Moroccans were the better side – far from it. They were highly organised, well disciplined and, surprisingly, matched our players in the physicality department. But our boys gave Morocco a run for their money as the stat bear that out with Nigeria dominating possession and having a tsunami of shots at goal.
Crucially though, Morocco have now won 2 games where they had less possession and less shots at goal vis-à-vis their opponents , something Ugbade should take note of.
Whatever happened to the magic that Emmanuel Michael produced in free-kicks? His efforts were out-of-this-world in the WAFU Cup last year but today, his free-kicks didn’t harm the Moroccans in the slightest. In fact, Ugbade’s boys were unimpressive in set piece routines all through the match.
After the Moroccan goal went in, I was eager to see how Ugbade and his boys would respond. They tried severally to bulldoze their way from centre midfield which were often curtailed.
They went to the flanks but their crosses – high and low – were effectively dealt with. Their through balls from midfield were cut off and they were more than matched by the Moroccans in one-on-one situations. Our goalkeeper , to his credit, did produce, I think, 3 fine saves.
Ugbade did make substitutions and one of them – on the right wing – huffed and puffed and showed glimpses of brilliance but, ultimately, it all came to nought. We needed someone to take the game by the scruff of its neck, an injection of tactical genius from somewhere, but no, it didn’t happen.
1:0 it ended.
I will be lying if I said I wasn’t mildly disappointed.
Whilst I praise the boys for their effort, dedication and passion, they lacked ideas in attacking areas whilst they displayed minimal flair and very little flamboyance in midfield. They can also be vulnerable at the back as 2 mistakes from misplaced passes went unpunished today.
I wish them well and hope they get a result against South Africa on Saturday. But, on the evidence of what we have seen of them thus far, there is much work to be done to mould this team into a redoubtable, awe-inspiring outfit.
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