On a night pregnant with a lot of tantalising possibilities, Eguavoen's Super Eagles delivered a badly malnourished kwashiorkor brand of football that effectively nailed Nigeria's abortion from the ongoing Afcon in Cameroon.
Tunisia vanquished the Super Eagles 1:0 in the most brutal fashion in Sunday's second round match which threw to the mud every good thing the team achieved in the group stages.
A second half delightful dribble, deadly drive and delicate delivery from long range was all it took for Tunisia's Youssef Msakni to put Nigeria to the sword in 47 minutes.
As a guest pundit on Flames TV last week, I was asked if Nigeria were title contenders by the other delighted guests. I said it was too early to call; the room fell silent. For me, Eguavoen's in-game 4-2-4 formation was worrisome. I thought it left us way short in midfield. More so, I had yet to see his boys' resourcefulness in trying to claw back a deficit.
And these factors proved to be the coup de grâce. With Ndidi left destitute, Msakni pulled the trigger that dealt a mortal blow to the title ambitions of Nigeria. Sadly Eguavoen's efforts to claw back the deficit was holed below the waterline by Iwobi's jejune tackle which handed him his walking papers.
The outcome of this encounter has now firmly put the dagger in the hands of those fans who waited patiently in the shadows, only to come out and crucify this timid, Ill-prepared table-soccer inspired team as they see it.
In this curtain call, I offer my player ratings below:
1, Maduka Okoye (4.5/10) was never truly convincing throughout the tournament and he was truly awful on Sunday. His savable blunder from a long range effort, despite the mildest of deflections, contributed to Nigeria's demise. Despite making some decent saves, I have never had faith in Okoye's presentation and his performance today vindicated all my prior concerns.
2, Ola Aina (5/10) played a part in Tunisia's goal by not effectively neutralising the threat from the source. Sunday's performance was a slight wrinkle in what was otherwise a brilliant all round campaign for the former Chelsea man.
3, William Troost-Ekong (6/10) delivered some neat and purposeful long passes in this encounter. Tried as he did, the Watford man couldn't provide the leadership needed to prevent Nigeria from sinking in a quagmire.
4, Kenneth Omeruo (5/10) is not expected to start any more matches for the Super Eagles going forward. This war horse put in a decent defensive shift today but a number of his long balls went astray. Adieu Omeruo.
5, Zaidu Sanusi (5/10) forever struggled to sustain neat deliveries from the flank. His game was without poise nor elegance but he delivered his defensive brief admirably when called upon. The look for a more flamboyant left fullback for Nigeria continues.
6, Wilfred Ndidi (5/10) was once again involved in the sequence of events that hurt the Super Eagles mortally in an Afcon knockout stage encounter. He was hung out to dry in the dribble that led to the fatal delivery this time around, having committed the killer foul against Algeria in 2019. Other than that, it was routinely 'by the tackles by the end' for Ndidi on Sunday with nothing extra-special produced to lift his team.
7, Joe Aribo (5/10) was 'absent without leave (AWOL)' to leave his post unguarded for the baneful moment. What a moment to be missing in action! Other than that, he had a decent tournament and tonight, he did the best he could, but it just wasn't good enough.
8, Kelechi Iheanacho (5/10) executed the sort of hand-swiping foul that earned him a straight yellow in the English Premier League this season and the outcome today was no different. Save for some overcooked passes and underwhelming movements, Iheanacho huffed and puffed for the time he was on without blowing even a pin down.
9, Samuel Chukwueze (4.5/10) will have problems dancing on ice as this will require the use of both feet. At least 2 crosses from him were eye popping but his take-ons were a let-down. A night not to remember; a tournament to forget for the Villarreal regular-sub.
10, Moses Simon (4.5/10) showed a distinct lack of versatility today as all his signature moves were erased. Telling crosses were short in supply, his set pieces were wholly inadequate even for a Sunday league, his dribbles were doused and his overall impact curtailed. A night to forget but a group stage to savour for the diminutive winger.
11. Taiwo Awoniyi (4.5/10) was largely anonymous tonight. With service to him either curtailed, inadequate or overcooked, he was effectively rendered redundant. His movements failed to yield any fruits and his overall performance in the tournament lacked the cutting edge.
12, Ahmed Musa's (4/10) performance and that of a headless chicken weren't wholly incompatible tonight. The captain showed little inspiration and his introduction failed to generate the second wind for Nigeria. He put himself about and did his utmost, but that was about it.
13, Alex Iwobi (2/10) the great (as he is fondly called by his rabid and fanatical flock of sheep) was greatly mistaken to think his cruel foul would go unpunished. You never want to see such a leg breaker as it could have led to lights out for the Tunisian player in an already depleted team. To his credit, Iwobi injected some urgency to the Super Eagles play. Had he been phlegmatic and abstemious with his tackle, Nigeria could have been more potent in the dying minutes.
14, Sadiq Umar (6.5/10) delivered his best game on the worst night for the Super Eagles. He brought in a sense of verisimilitude with his authentic take ons and deadly deliveries that were a whisker away from dragging the Super Eagles back into the encounter. A wretched tournament, but an unforgettable night for the Almeria sharpshooter.
Peter Olayinka (4/10) did not conjure any jump-scare moments for the Tunisian audience to fret. He did provide the extra body up front but that was just about it. With the Super Eagles already depleted, crestfallen and out of ideas, there was little - if anything - Olayinka could do.
Coach Eguavoen (4.5/10) cut a despondent persona as he watched years of table soccer illustrations go up in smoke against a stricken Tunisia. His boys lacked intensity in the first half and were thoroughly curtailed in the second. His credentials of clawing back deficits took a major wack as his substitute earned a straight red and the other 10 foot soldiers on grass ran out of ideas. The concerns I raised in my post-match analysis against Guinea Bissau effectively came home to roost, swallowing the hopes of Super Eagles fans.
For all his swashbuckling bravado in the group stages, Eguavoen's campaign ended in a damp squib for a man who is now left to ponder about where it all went wrong.
Nigeria 0:1 Tunisia.
Copyright Notice © : unauthorised use of this material is strictly prohibited