The home-based Super Eagles suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to neighbours Benin Republic in Sunday's African Nations Championship qualifier first leg.
Completesportsnigeria.com's JAMES AGBEREBI who was in Cotonou for the match highlights his observations before, during and after the match as the Nigerian side prepare for Saturday's return leg in Kano…
One of the low points in the game between Benin Republic and the home-based Super Eagles of Nigeria was poor officiating by the Algerian referee Mustapha Ghorbal, mostly against Nigeria.
Together with his assistant referees and compatriots Mokrane Gourari and Mohammed Serradj, Ghorbal made calls that left much to be desired.
The rate at which Nigeria's attacking moves were halted and fouls given against them, it was glaring that the home team was being favoured.
However, there can be no complaints about the penalty awarded to the home-based Eagles, which was due to carelessness of the Nigeria defence.
It may sound as an excuse but one factor that may have affected the home-based Super Eagles was the poor pitch of the Stade de L'amite.
The Nigerians struggled to string two passes together which made it very difficult to initiate attacking moves.
From afar, the pitch looked level but a close look would reveal how uneven and cut up the pitch was with some patches grassy, some sandy.
But the terrible pitch was not a problem for the Beninoise; they did not find it difficult since they have very good knowledge of the ground, which was perfectly to their advantage.
THE BENIN REPUBLIC TEAM ARE NOT FANTASTIC
Despite defeating the home-based Eagles, one fact remains: the Benin Republic team was not fantastic.
Until the penalty was awarded, the home-based Eagles were holding their own and were occasionally creating openings which unfortunately were not converted into goals.
Going into the second leg in Kano on Saturday, the home-based Eagles can still overturn the 1-0 deficit provided they take their chances.
HOME-BASED EAGLES' VULNERABILITY IN SET PLAYS
One area which the home-based Eagles must work on ahead of the second leg in Kano on Saturday is on how to deal with aerial threats.
On five occasions in the 10th, 20th, 25th, 31st and 65th minutes, the Beninoises went very close to scoring from free-kicks with the home-based Eagles defenders caught napping.
A more clinical team would have capitalised on this weakness and punished the Nigerian side.
In the return leg in Kano, coach Salisu Yusuf and his coaching crew must sort this out to avoid being embarrassed at home.
TWO SETS OF NIGERIA FOOTBALL SUPPORTERS CLUB
The Nigeria Football Supporters Club were already outside the Stade de l'amite three hours to kick-off, singing and dancing.
But during the game, two sets of Nigeria Football Supporters Club could be seen in the stands showing support to the home-based Eagles.
This surely raised eye brows because one would have expected the supporters club to be together and operating as one.
This could have affected the players who would be wondering what was going on especially when they went to applaud the supporters before the start of the match.
MASSIVE HOME SUPPORT
If there was one thing that the Squirrels never lacked against the home-based Eagles, it was massive support from their home fans.
Despite the stadium not being filled to capacity, the home fans made their presence felt by cheering every move made by their team.
Even when the home-based Eagles were having the upper hand, that did not stop the fans from supporting their team which eventually yielded the desired result.
It is now up to the Kano fans to replicate what the Squirrels enjoyed from their home fans.
VERY GOOD ACCOMMODATION
If there is one area which the home-based Eagles cannot complain about, it was the fact that they were lodged in one of the best hotels in Cotonou, the Royal Hotel.
Located in the heart of Cotonou, the Royal Hotel has an indoor pool and a 24-hour health club. Free buffet breakfast is provided, as well as free WiFi in public areas, free self parking, and a free airport shuttle. Additionally, a bar/lounge, a poolside bar, and three coffee shops/cafés are at the four-star hotel.
It is common knowledge that most home teams in Africa hardly provide a conducive environment for their visitors all in a bid to gain a psychological advantage.
But in this case, the Eagles never experienced anything of that sort and cannot use poor lodging that as an excuse for the loss.
UNINTERRUPTED TRAINING SESSIONS, NO HOSTILITY
Aside from getting the best of accommodation, the home-based Eagles had smooth and uninterrupted training sessions.
The team had their first training session on Friday few hours after arriving in Benin and had their final session on Saturday.
While the sessions were going on, there was no case of disturbance from the home fans who were present to catch a glimpse of the Nigerian stars.11 BUSINESS NUGGETS FROM SUPER EAGLES BRONZE MEDAL TRIUMPH. The content of this ebook will propel you above your competition. Buy NOW!!!