Faulty Formation And Five Other Takeaways From Nigeria’s 2-0 Loss To Croatia

Faulty Formation And Five Other Takeaways From Nigeria’s 2-0 Loss To Croatia

By Kayode Ogundare:
The battle has been one and lost but the war is far from over. We lost 2-0 to Croatia but we still have games against Iceland and Argentina to rescue our World Cup hopes. However, what are the six things we learnt from the first game.
Former Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Jo Bonfrere said, just last week, of the Nigerian team’s infidelity to a particular system of play: “You cannot play today 4-4-2, tomorrow 4-3-3 and next week 5-4-1. That is not possible, a team cannot do this. You cannot change the system (of formation). If you can change the system (of formation), then you have one of the best football team. Nigeria has a system at this moment which they (the players) don’t understand to play. But Croatia is playing the system even when they played against Brazil. Though they lost to Brazil, they still played a system. Nigeria is changing and changing the system. Up till now, the player does not know what or where he must play and that can be a big problem against Croatia.”
I agreed with him then and, after the game, I still agree with him. The Super Eagles played without pace in a system they were not too familiar with. This is like shooting yourself in the foot. After two years in charge, Rohr should have settled for a system that the players would be familiar with by now. How long do we keep chopping and changing?
I was fortunate to cover the Super Eagles pre-World Cup training camp in Uyo and twice, once in Lagos and the other at the Ibom Resort Hotel in Uyo, when I had the opportunity to discuss with coach Gernot Rohr, I brought up the issue of our seeming impotence with set-pieces. We don’t take advantage of it like other teams do – we scored only once from a corner (Mikel’s goal against Cameroon in Uyo); once from a free-kick (Iheanacho’s goal against Argentina in Krasnodar) and once from a penalty (Moses’ goal against Poland in Wroclaw) in the two years Rohr has been in charge. We didn’t fare any better before him either. He promised to work on the team’s ability to defend set-pieces and how they profit when they get their own opportunities from corners and free-kicks.
Apparently, he’s not finished teaching them or the Eagles have yet to imbibe the lessons taught. Against Croatia, we gifted away two goals from corner-kicks. The first goal wouldn’t have come if we cleared our lines promptly. And the second wouldn’t be if Troost-Ekong had not watched too much Wrestlemania.
Now, I don’t claim to be a certified coach but I know a player who’s doing well when I see one. It was my considered opinion that Alex Iwobi was not doing too badly, in a generally average team performance of course, so I was surprised to see the coach haul him off when he did. Iwobi was the most vibrant of the three-man support cast in the Eagles 4-2-3-1 formation and I would have allowed him stay on the pitch, remove Shehu Abdullahi and push Victor Moses to the right full back to create space for Kelechi Iheanacho in attack. But what do I know?
During the qualification for the World Cup, right full back Shehu Abdullahi was one of our most outstanding players. He made the right full back his own after Gernot Rohr had tested Wilfred Ndidi (against Zambia in Ndola) and Kenneth Omeruo (for one hour against Algeria in Uyo) in that position. He came on for Omeruo after 65 minutes and played every single minutes of the remaining games, including a Man of the Match performance against Zambia in Uyo. Strangely, this was while he still played for Anorthosis Famagusta in the lightly-regarded Cypriot league. Since he moved to the better-rated Turkish Super Lig for Bursaspor, his form has dropped seriously and this is not for a lack of playing time because he’s one of the club’s regulars since joining them last January.
He was roundly condemned for his performance against the Czech Republic and against Croatia he was the team’s weakest link. Hopefully, we might get to see the youngster Tyronne Ebuehi in his place against Iceland. Hopefully.
One of the biggest talking points in the run-up to the World Cup was the relative inexperience and low profile of goalkeeper Francis Uzoho who gatecrashed the World Cup party after the ticket had been won. Much was made of his age and the fact that he plays in the Spanish lower divisions. Many people prophesied that he was going to leak like a basket.
Well, it hasn’t exactly happened like we feared. Against Croatia, Uzoho was one of our better players and you couldn’t blame him for any of the two goals. He had good control of his area, communicated well with his defenders and, I noticed, his kick outs were a massive improvement from what it used to be when he first started out with the Super Eagles. He also did not display any nerves as he kept it simple and basic. Let’s hope he gets better in the games ahead. Let’s hope we have not spoken too soon, either.
Odion Ighalo was the arrowhead of a 4-2-3-1 system and, for the umpteenth time, we saw him struggle upfront on and off the ball. He cut a sorry figure as he tried to chase the balls down all on his own.
If there’s one thing that’s clear to me about the current Super Eagles, it is the fact that Ighalo cannot thrive as a lone striker. He’s just not cut for that role. His best spell in club football was at Watford where he scored 36 goals in 72 games, an impressive average of one goal every two games or 0.5 per game. Guess what? He had a certain Troy Deeney playing as a foil for him and that was why he was so productive.
So it is wrong to crucify Ighalo for his performance while ignoring the fact that we refused to play to his strength. I suggest we find a way to accommodate him and, say, Iheanacho where the Leicester City striker will play in the hole behind Ighalo. Sounds promising. doesn’t it?
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  • Ayphillydegreat 3 years ago

    Ighalo can not play as a lone striker or Ighalo should never be in the first 11? Lone striker or not Ighalo should never see our jersey again. Kelechi came in and we saw the difference right away. How did Kelechi not start that game?? His combo with Iwobi would’ve been a joy to watch.

    Anyway I’m sure there will be a lot of changes in the next match.

    • So many fools here who did not play, at least, college football are talking. Ahmed Musa and Iheanacho did well as fresh legs late in the match.
      Jealous people who wish others do not succeed. This boys and the officials have made names for themselves. What about you all. Whatever you do genuinely and do so well can also bring you before the world cameras. You can never write off their names from Nigeria’s football history.

  • You are spot on bro,,,Shehu was just minus one, and has been the bad luck for this team even b4 we qualified, Ebuehi would have done better, But I have one question, wasn’t the coach supposed to have his formation and Tactics on hand B4 picking his final 23 ,The players that executed that game against Argentina would have been better, Rather than Embarrassing us yesterday with Moses falling all over the place, ….God help Nigeria and the Super Eagles

  • louis 3 years ago

    Just tired of saying it. I hope this man Rohr will be spoken to. 

  • JOSEPH 3 years ago

    Rohr a very good coach no doubt but sia1 is the best but nff no one enemy of our football becos of greed.

    • Chima E Samuels 3 years ago

      True talk sia1 is the best with him we play like lions and scores goals upon goals creating chances like water Etebo plays better under good coaches

  • Sunnyb 3 years ago

    Siasia is by far the best coach in Naija, the Guy selects players based on merits, unlike Oliseh, yeye Amuneke and Christian Chukwu, we saw what he did at two Olympics,but they would never allow him to be successful, if Siasia can be given thesame free hand given to Rohr, Nigeria would make serious noise in next World Cup. This World Cup is over we are losing all our matches, maybe we get a draw against Iceland. But it’s over no second round for us. We don’t have players that can make the difference, people clamoring  for Iheanacho, the same Iheanacho  that’s warning the bench at Leicester city.

    • Ayphillydegreat 3 years ago

      I bet you didn’t watch Kelechi towards the end of the season. You’ve stop bad mouthing Iwobi since the England game. SiaOne that fails to qualify us for two AFCON is now a world-class coach overnight. We will take this as a learning curve for a young team. It’s not a shame to lose to Croatia.

      • Results were not always equal to the play tactics with Siasia. With Sia1 we had tactics we created chances and played like a team… If given free opportunity to build the team we are surely going to make waves

  • We are seemingly losing sight of the fact Shehu Abdullah isn’t a natural right full back. He played predominantly as a defensive midfielder in his former club in Cyprus and plays in same position in his current club, Bursaspor. Tyronne Ebuehi should have played ahead of him in the right full back position.

    • Father.JP 3 years ago

      Same naija problem. Politics, football…same; round pegs in square holes. Why drop an Aina who’s a natural right back???

      Shehu only played at RB for us bfoe we discovered Aina and Ebuehi. If he must be compensated for being part of the ream that got us the WC ticket, then the rational thing to have been done was take him to the mundial as one of our defensive midifelders and drop Joel Obi.

  • bossbaby 3 years ago

    will someone just remove ighalo and shehu Abdullah.

  • Chima E Samuels 3 years ago

    Why sub iwobi if there’s nothing fishing?

  • The fact is…I don’t even know what the problem. Of naija team is anymore. Against Serbia (where Iwobi played centrally), we concluded that without Mikel,  there’s no Nigerian team. Now there’s mikel and d performance was worse. We even said only mikel can play behind ighalo because of there performace against Cameroon.  Now we have used Mikel, Joel, Etebo, Iwobi even iheanacho behind ighalo yet, No show. Nwakali has been on loan for 3 different clubs now, he will only play few games and end on d bench every season, that says something about him too. Even Cyriel dessers played just 17 games all thru d season for his new club and mostly from the bench. I noticed we are blessed with right backs because with I’d own playing as a left back with right foot, imagine him on the right, we won’t even need shehu anymore.  We need natural left wing backs and offensive midfielders with sharp strikers.  This team is for the future. We only need a younger modern day white coach to blend them. What do u expect of a coach that his back ups lost 2 finals with same score lines 4-4 goals to Zero.

  • I mean imagine idowu as a right back…with his performance as a left back with right foot.*

  • Sehu without any disrespect to him is good but he is not a natural right back and he has been woeful of recent Ebuehi would have been better off. As for those clamouring for Siasia haba Nigeria and mediocrity. You want to compare world cup with Olympic even nations cup qualifier twice he couldn’t do anything. Rohr might not be doing well now but he is still way better except we can go for Mourinho,Guardiola of this world. Sehu and Ighalo should be dropped or he play two strikers

  • Agree with you on all points.


  • Amaechi Ajah 3 years ago

    Our coach shud jst change d formation and select d right players to play der right position. Uzoho in goal, Ebuehi shud start @right back cos he is a natural full back compare 2 Shehu cos 4me shehu is a naturally defensive midfielder i watch him play dat role @kano pillars he is always on point even wen he joined bursaspor of turkey dey play him as a defensive midfielder so pls gernot rohr shud pls spare us. As for d left back Idowu shud stil kp it yes he tends to disappear after awhile bt for d reason of pace he has wen compared wt Echiejile so he stays. Our centre halfs still remains Balogun & Ekong. I wil prefer an Ndidi/Ogu or Ndidi/Etebo central midfield combo. Naija strength is d wing play weda a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 formations d wings is d eagles tin we shud nt lie 2ourselves. We do well wen we mk use of it, d facts are dey. So 4ds one (Iceland) Iwobi/Moses shud do dat. if we ar goin 4a two way attack i wil definitely stick wt Ighalo to lead d line wt Iheanacho as a support strike bt if is a lone striker tin i wil settle foe Iheanacho. Bt mind u we lack d players to play d lone striker tin. Dat wz y i said in my previous comment on d final list of Mr. Rohr dat his squad is loaded wt wing play players right from his initial 30 players. So wt dat point i wonder y he (Rohr) is nt playin wt such strength. I wish eagles way!1!

  • Louis 3 years ago

    I read people writing about sia1 and taking about giving free hand. Free hand is never giving, it is taken. If sia1 didn’t have a free hand during is tenure as a coach it is because he didn’t take it by force. Don’t you remember the NFF technical team saying that Rohr didn’t consult them on the final list going to the World Cup?
    My concern is Rohr changing the epileptic formation he used against Croatia to 3-4-1-2 (3-5-2).
    If for any reason he doesn’t, we should not be disappointed if we lost again.