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Did Stand-in Coach Justin Madugu Do Well Against Ethiopia in 4 nil Romp?

Madugu manhandles Ethiopia

Well, all is well than ends well comes to mind regarding Nigeria’s heart-warming 4:0 mauling of Ethiopia this week as we march to the next round of Olympic qualifiers on 5:1 aggregate scores.

There has been apprehension in certain quarters that stand-in coach Justin Madugu might be out of his depths for the challenge on hand owing to the disjointed display of the Super Falcons in the first leg. This 4:0 result aside, there were discernible levels of organisation, intent and tactical injection that were evident in how the Super Falcons went about dismantling Ethiopia in Abuja.

In a recent article I wrote on Asisat Oshoala, I had recommended stationing her on the wings where her current repertoire of Super Falcons skills currently resides in my humble opinion. Those saying Oshoala is a spent force for Nigeria are being unreasonable and totally oblivious to areas where she can still be harmful against oppositions.

I wasn’t surprised at all when, through on goal following a glorious through pass by midfield maestro Toni Payne, Oshoala made pig's ear of the glorious chance by trying and failing to round the goalkeeper when other intelligent options abounded; her wastefulness on full display. In the same breath, I wasn’t surprised when she started peppering Ethiopian fullbacks to deliver unbelievably glorious crosses that bore much fruit. Oshoala still possesses pace and power sufficient to wreak havoc from the flanks with darting runs and deadly crosses. But she fluffs far too many glorious chances to be saddled with goal scoring responsibilities. She missed a great header and also connected late or without conviction yesterday. For me, on the flanks she is deadly, as a centre forward, less so.

Madugu’s ladies tried to build from the back severally (either with cute passes or long balls), the cornerstone of several world class teams in modern football these days. It comes with risks and rewards. Our centre back and defensive midfielder lost possession in this process yesterday but were left off the hook by naïve Ethiopian efforts to capitalise – better teams wouldn’t be that generous. The reward came when a long ball from our centre back Demehin made it all the way to Kanu on the left wing who brutalised her way into the box to pulverize the net and power Nigeria 1:0 ahead in 46 minutes. That training ground routine had worked faultlessly.

Enough credit is also not given by fans to the sheer number of times that the Super Falcons worked their way to crossing or offensive positions in this match.

This can easily be overlooked but, playing a defensive minded team like Ethiopia, casual observers can never appreciate how hard it will be to even get close to the opposition 18 yard box. Yet, even in the first half, I saw debris of crosses flying into Ethiopian 18 yard box with reckless abandonment from all corners. And these were of different varieties: cut backs, low crosses, inswingers, long crosses. It was a crossing smorgasbord.

One of the many delicious crosses/cut backs came from none other than Oshoala who treated 2 Ethiopian markers as mere annoying afterthoughts after breezing through on the right flank to lay it on a plate for Ajibade who didn’t pass up the meal to make it 2:0 in 50 minutes. Another cross from Kanu straight out of a Sony PlayStation computer game in 68 minutes from left wing found Oshoala’s picture-perfect header to put daylight between both sides; 3:0. Who says Oshooala can’t score? (oops, I did!). Another merciless run down the right wing, another ruthless cut back all from Oshoala and another meal gobbled up by Ajibade to wipe the net with a neat finish for Nigeria’s 4th and final goal.

Never had I seen wing play and well executed crosses serve the Super Falcons as did this Madugu tutored side.

In all I thought the Super Falcons came alive towards the end of the first half. They played with authority and intent and their deliveries from the flanks and connections inside the 18 yard box proved productive. Peace Efih breathed life into the defensive midfield department and the philosophy of attacking from the flanks paid off. Toni Payne continues to be a spewing volcano of hot passes and explosive all-round play in offensive midfield. The approach to play out from the back frustrated Ethiopia and starved them of possession. Nigeria’s big guns came to the party in what the performance and scoreline that segues to my summation of a “commanding Nigeria display.”

I was thoroughly delighted by the performance and scoreline of my dear Super Falcons; Madugu and his coaching crew and all the players did well.

The NFF should now sort out Nigeria’s coaching issue. If they elect to jettison Waldrum due to persistent bad blood, so be it. Between now and the titanic double-header against Cameroon in the new year, there is ample time to engage a credible gaffer. Justine Madugu did well against Ethiopia, he looked like a chip off the old Waldrum-tactical-block. But I harbour doubts as to his suitability for against far more formidable foes.

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