Has Ladan Bosso Turned A Corner With Flying Eagles' Win Against Egypt ?
Another day, another win but I find myself asking the same question about another Nigeria national team coach: does this win represent a stay-of-executive for Ladan Bosso in the eyes of many fans who would want nothing more than for him to be sent to the gallows.
Yesterday, a bullet of a header from defender Agbalaka in 71 minutes off a cute corner kick was all it took to put the Egyptians to the sword in the Flying Eagles' second group match to end 1:0.
But, just like the Randy Waldrum tutored Super Falcons' slim victory against Costa Rica, Bosso's boys' win yesterday as well was leadened with deep dissatisfaction at the wider picture of the team's rudimentary and unappealing brand of football.
Nigeria has never won the Under-20 world cup. In fact, that is the only Gold medal that has eluded Nigeria's underage national teams with the Under-17s and the Olympic Under-23s having Gold against their names.
Bosso's Flying Eagles class of 2023 do not even remotely look like qualifying for the World Cup let alone bringing back home the Crown Jewels.
But, yesterday's match has to be viewed in its own merit and I have to say, there were massive improvements in the second half. Nigeria's defense was under siege from sustained Egyptian assault in the early part of the first half leading to a succession of corner kicks for the hosts.
The Flying Eagles dealt very well with the aerial assaults from the Egyptians with the defense holding firm to keep the North Africans at bay.
Was it a masterclass defending from Bosso's boys? I think they deserve praise for riding out the Egyptian storm. But, when on the ball, the Flying Eagles were awful. They showed lack of situational awareness; they lacked a clear vision; they showed zero football insight or intelligence as they effectively played second fiddle to Egypt.
It was horrible to watch a Nigeria team play kick-and-follow football in such a high level competition. Some of their so-called attempts at goal would have been tragic if they weren't funny.
But, in 27 minutes, the Flying Eagles executed a sequence of passes culminating in a goal scoring effort that provided a glimpse of what they are capable of if only they settle down to play football with strategy, purpose and insight.
Their high press did cause a bit of problems for Egypt and in truth, they did enough - just - to stay in the encounter.
In the second half, I thought they played better. Their game began to have a semblance of organization and it was becoming possible for me to decipher their somewhat 4-3-3 formation as they were now starting to stretch the Egyptians on either flank.
Bosso's decision to replace the goalkeeper was instantly rewarded with Aniagboso producing a string of world class saves. But for the heroics of the Giant Brillas FC goalkeeper last night, it would have been another story.
By the 69th minute, the Flying Eagles had been playing far better. They had room to breathe with the ball as they added variety to the build-up play. They were a lot calmer on the ball with better positional discipline and organisation.
From a Nigeria perspective, the game had come to life.
So, it didn't surprise me one bit when the Flying Eagles took the lead in 71 minutes. What surprised me was how masterfully they kept the injured and rampaging Egyptians at bay for the remainder of the match to keep it 1:0.
Well done to Bosso and his boys but this was far from a convincing victory. This team lacks both flair and discernible identity. Their brand of football leaves you disinterested in whatever they are trying to achieve. They look a bit leggy at times and they play like secondary school children using stones and bags as goalposts.
I hope they continually improve as the tournament progresses. There are signs that they can do better. I hope they come good in time.