What Factors Can Enhance Golden Eaglets' Chances of Beating Burkina Faso?
In a replay of last year's Wafu Zone B Cup final, in which Nigeria came up trumps, Ugbade's boys will yet again lock horns with Burkina Faso in this winner-takes-all U-17 Afcon quarter final on Thursday.
The victors will snatch one of the 4 World Cup tickets on offer.
The question on the lips of many Nigeria fans is: what must the Golden Eaglets do - or avoid doing - in order to guarantee success?
Paying attention to the following areas, I think, can go some way in helping the Eaglets successfully navigate this tricky encounter:
1) Slowing the tempo of games (to draw opposition players out). Nigeria's relentless all-out-attack strategy makes it easy for their oppositions to pack bodies in defensive areas making it difficult for them to be broken down.
Golden Eaglets should learn how to draw their opponents out in order to create gaps to exploit by perhaps staying back to soak some pressure at times.
2) Being firm and impregnable in 1-on-1 situations when defending is something the team should work on. Morocco's only goal and South Africa's second goal came as a result of besting the Golden Eaglets in take-on situations. Working on the effectiveness of their tackles and interceptions will serve them well.
3) Adding more quality to their high and low crosses and cutbacks will make their pull outs less predictable and easier for strikers to connect.
4) Attacking opposition box 18 with accurate movements and precise connections in order to score more goals from crosses and cutbacks. Timing is key: Nigeria strikers and midfielders need to time their runs into delicate areas so they can be in the right place at the right time to meet the right crosses and strike with deadly precision.
5) Utilizing set pieces like they did in the Wafu tournament where left back Emmanuel Michael scored 3 freekicks will be fabulous to see and a useful arrow in their quiver. It was heartwarming and reassuring to see Ugbade’s boys score off a corner kick against South Africa - more of that please!
6) The Golden Eaglets, as a matter of urgency, must avoid conceding goals first or early like they did against South Africa and Morocco. This will prevent them from being on the back foot.
Also it will prevent their opponents from parking the bus for the remainder of the match. It should then make for an open game where where the Golden Eaglets' penetrative passing routines could see them unlock Burkina Faso's defense with ruthless efficiency.
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