Updated: Oct 11, 2021
Beleaguered defensive duo Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong (aka Oyinbo Wall) made amends for their slipshod first leg displays today with a goal and assist as Nigeria sent Central Africa Republic to the gallows.
Balogun (well positioned deep in the opposition 18 yard box) rose highest to smash home a volley with vengeance giving Nigeria a deserved lead in 29 minutes before his partner in crime Ekong swung a delicious cross for Osimhen to slot home from close range to give Nigeria a commanding 2 goals lead 46 minutes.
2:0 to Nigeria it ended.
The fans demanded a response from the Super Eagles following the shambolic 1:0 home loss to the same opposition. How fitting that it was the main culprits in that match that were at the forefront of making amendments here.
From coach Rohr who tweaked the formation to the much more effective 3-5-2 (which I always advocate) to the players who gave 110% performances, they were all brilliant.
Is this victory likely to support granting Rohr a stay of execution in the eyes of fans? I doubt it. For many, that ship has long sailed: Rohr's methods are rubbish and he has to go, would be their conclusion.
For me, it is much too late in the day to be talking about replacing Rohr. I would recommend he is afforded space and support to finish what he started. Back then, my view was that his contract should never have been renewed. We should have sought a fresh start after the 2019 Afcon. But to replace him so close to the next Afcon and neck deep in world cup qualifiers could just be suicidal.
Looking for the right coach willing to work with this NFF can be tricky. Also, the manager will need to bond with the players and this takes time. A few feathers will need to be ruffled to get the right mix of players for the coach's preference and this can cause revolt!
But there was no revolt in Rohr's dressing room today as his Super Eagles ran riot within a 20 minute spell in the first half to send the Beast of CAR to the gallows.
The red rag to my bull concerning Coach Rohr is that he doesn't seem to learn from experience.
From the 4:2 demolition of Argentina in 2017 and the second half against England in 2018, it became clear to me that Rohr's Super Eagles play with freedom, flair and fervour with the 3-5-2 formation. Yet, the German has to wait until damage is done before reverting to it.
Against CAR today, Rohr seemingly reverted to this formation reluctantly
and the results were there for all to see.
Balogun, having 2 other centre defenders behind him, could venture forward to score ; Osimhen benefitted from having a strike partner; Moses Simon's skills were put to better use as a wing-back and our midfield clicked a lot better. In short, our players seem to be able to express themselves more fluently with this set up (I still remember how Iwobi wiped the floor with the Argentina defence within this tactics).
Never mind the quality of the opposition, the brand of football played by the Super Eagles today was beautiful to the eye. It was pristine, purposeful and polished. My recommendation would be for Rohr to make this his default formation.
Although Nigeria still lead the pack with 9 points, the group is wide open and anything can still happen.
Hopefully, the shock loss to CAR in the first leg would serve as a cautionary tale to Rohr and his boys that they cannot afford to be lackadaisical with any more matches from here on.
They might have scaled this hurdle, the battle for hearts and minds and (crucially) qualification to the world cup are all far from won.