Finally, Jose Peseiro guided Nigeria to a friendly triumph since taking reins as Super Eagles gaffer with today’s decent 3:2 win against an obdurate Mozambique.
It would have been impossible to remotely defend the Portuguese tactician had Nigeria lost the match and that was almost the case as the Super Eagles had to come from one goal down to claim victory in respectable fashion.
Catamo had put Mozambique ahead in 6 minutes before sustained and merciless Super Eagles pressure led to Moffi’s neat finish in 10 minutes. Then, Onyeka’s emphatic stab in 30 minutes effectively put Nigeria in the driving seat, much to the relief of fans. Simon was as cool as cucumber in 48 minutes to slot home a penalty kick before Bangal took advantage of negligent Nigerian defending to slot home at close range for Mozambique, making it 3:2.
Having just seen the match once, from my tablet which wasn’t particularly very clear, below are my quick initial observations:
1, Moses Simon is very tenacious. He caused no end of problems for Mozambique on the flanks. He remains an integral part of Nigeria’s hopes of making a meaningful impact in the Afcon if he retains this scintillating form.
2, Super Eagles created credible goal scoring opportunities today. But for the brilliance of Mozambique’s goalkeeper, the margin of victory could have been higher. Kudos goes to Peseiro for his instructions (which helped to open up the opposition), and his boys for their decent execution.
3, There was a clear pattern that produced Nigeria’s goals: locate the centre forward who slices it back to an attacking midfielder or support striker who in turn unleashes a bullet from the edge of the 18 yard box. This manoeuvre worked wonders today which left me really impressed.
4, A staple of Peseiro’s game is high press. The team succeeded in harassing their opponents with this approach which contributed to Mozambique conceding a red card. As the Super Eagles continue to perfect this strategy, they can expect to punish more careless defenders in games to come.
5, Despite their low status, Mozambique came here to play and win and almost embarrassed the Super Eagles. But, like a phoenix, the Super Eagles rose from the ashes of conceding early to draw level and then take the lead. It shows their mettle and character which will need to come to play in world cup qualifiers and the Afcon.
6, The Super Eagles actually looked like they were enjoying themselves. They looked comfortable within the formation they were operating in. Their routines looked well polished and they controlled the pace of the game for long periods.
7, Aribo, to me, was effective as a nuisance in attack. He put his body about and made his physical presence felt, far more than I see him do in midfield. He didn’t so much carry a scoring threat but he looked like an outlet to ruffle up defenders and bring others in, so deep in enemy territory.
8, Nigeria still often seem to find it difficult to make headway through the middle. Hence the Super Eagles over-rely on wing play. Having a cerebral midfielder will be golden.
9, Concentration lapses is the bane of this team. It led to Mozambique’s second goal. This shortcoming could prove costly in crunch encounters.
10, One of Uzoho’s deliveries almost culminated in a penalty award to Nigeria later in the match but the referee dismissed it. He has greatly improved as a keeper-sweeper with an eye for key passes but he still need to work relentlessly on other key aspects of his job description. Retaining him in goal was a vote of confidence from the coach which he needs to start paying in subsequent games.
Summary: I was satisfied with the outcome of this match and the performance of the team. I don’t think the low status of the opposition takes any gloss off the output – the Super Eagles did well. But some potentially damaging shortcomings remain.
Our goalkeepers still need help, encouragement and support; they Super Eagles still manage to fall asleep on the wheel of concentration in key moments; and they aren’t as ruthless as can be expected. One thing I observed is that the formation of Mozambique made for an open game which allowed Nigeria to flourish today. They might find it tough going against a more compact opposition. All in all, kudos goes to Peseiro for a job well done and an acceptable victory.