Friday, June 28, 2013

Analytics: Stats that Look Deep into Keshi's Eagles

There are a few statistics that help us take a deeper look at Keshi's Super Eagles as we seek to better understand his team. I briefly put forward those statistics from his 28 games (full internationals). It is important to note that games that we have classified as full internationals are those in which foreign-based internationals were not exempted by both teams or competitive games against FIFA member countries. Thus, the game against Catalunya, for instance, is not counted here. Here are some notes:

Three wins (Venezuela, I/Coast, Mali), two draws (Zambia, Mexico), and four losses (Egypt, Peru, Uruguay, Spain).

Here we break down the statistics into four time slots (Early first half /EFH; Late First Half/LFH; Early Second Half/ESH, and Late Second Half/LSH). The statistics here is revealing. Nigeria has conceded a pile of goals late i.e in the LSH. Consider that if you take away three goals scored by Nigeria against Tahiti in the ESH, Nigeria would be barely breaking even in this time slot! Here is the data:

EFH = 12 goals for - 3 against = +9
LFH = 10-5 = +5
ESH = 8-4 = + 4
LSH = 14-11 = +3

In the opening first half, Nigeria has done quite well conceding only to Spain, Mexico, and Liberia with both Spain and Liberia scoring within the first five minutes.

The team has been averaging more than one caution in each game! To date, the accumulation is 1 red card and 39 cautions. The high was five cautions received in the international friendly against Cape Verde. The rate of cautions per game is 1.39 cautions.

**To learn more about Nigerian soccer statistics checkout CHUKASTATS at books.

Monday, June 24, 2013

After the Confederations Cup: Assessing Nigeria and World Cup 2014

Watching Nigeria play at the Confederations Cup 2013 in Brazil provided us with an opportunity to assess the team in preparation for World Cup 2014 that will take place in the same country, Brazil. Sure, Nigeria is yet to get to the final round of the World Cup qualifiers in Africa and, thus, it might appear premature to be writing about being at the World Cup in Brazil. However, I take that risk -- after all, I am neither the coach nor am I an NFF administrator. I am just a football fan and I am doing what fans do -- sit back and become an armchair prognosticator. I love it.

What did we Learn at the Confederations Cup?
There are several key things that we should have learned from participating at the Confederations cup and I list them below:

1. That Nigeria has a team that can compete favorably with the rest of the World. Well, you may say "What's the big deal about that?" You are probably correct. After all, Nigeria is the current African Champion and after all Nigeria has several players playing in some of the challenging leagues in the world. However, bear in mind that several of our top players were missing at this Confederation Cup. Some did not travel and two others were injured at the competition. Also, bear in mind that Nigeria has been rebuilding for some time.  My optimism is based on the fact that Nigeria went toe to toe with some of the best teams and held its own in spite of challenges.

2. That we are extremely thin upfront. With Emenike injured, one expected another striker to step up. Disappointedly, none did.

3. That our midfielders need to work harder, particularly in helping the defense when the opponent has the ball. Several times it appeared that our midfielders were late tracking back.

What Should be the Goal going into World Cup 2014?
1. Find adequate substitutes for the striking position. We need strikers who are clinical in front of goal. There will be games where chances are limited. At the Confederations Cup, we had several chances in front of goal but that in my opinion is an aberration. There will be games where an opponent will sit back and allow fewer chances as we have seen in the World Cup qualifiers in Africa. In such situations we better have a striker capable of converting half chances.

2. Our midfield has to work very hard to help the defense. At the Confederations Cup, there were occasions when the midfielders were slow tracking back and this has to be a concern.

I truly believe that the Eagles are coming together and would be very close to a peak output if we get past the African qualifiers and become a participant at the World Cup in Brazil next summer. The Confederations Cup has provided that assurance after the performance against some of the World's best teams. Sure we lost, which is never the ultimate goal, but one has to look at those games like we do after friendly internationals i.e. what were other positives or negatives from the team's play. We no longer play against the world's top teams and expect to be up against the wall. Instead, we actually compete with a good chance to win. We have not been in such a position since 1998.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Oduamadi, Tahiti, and the Record Books

Nnamdi Oduamadi, on Monday, threatened to tie the highest number of goals in a single game for Nigeria. He ended up with three goals to his name and had a fourth controversially denied by the match officials after he was judged offside. Oduamadi has averaged 56 minutes per game for Nigeria and has now four goals in seven games for the Super Eagles. On Monday, he was close to eviscerating the record of most goals in a game for Nigeria but the denied goal and missing a couple of other chances kept him away from doing so.

Oduamadi's physique is wily to the point that one would think that defenders will take him for a rag doll. He inspires very little fear in defenders. But that is before he actually touches a ball. When he does you will notice a player with subtle skills and quick dribbling moves around his marker. However, none of that will leave a trace that he would be able to produce a hat trick of goals. He is neither stout nor as fast as Musa. Thus, a hat trick was not expected from him. Yes, one may argue -- it was only against the amateurs of Tahiti. But think for one minute. Did Nigeria not have vaunted goal scorers on the field on Monday? Yes, there were the likes of Ideye, the Ujah, and Musa. Each so hyped that one expected them to singlehandedly erase Tahiti. In the end none of them had as much as a goal registered by their name on Monday. INstead, it was down to Oduamadi taking his opportunities and coming close to equaling a record that had stood for decades.

Elkanah Onyeali (1959), Joseph Aghoghovia (1968), an Rashidi Yekini (1991) continue to hold the record of most goals in a single game with four each. However, Oduamadi has now added his name to a list of eight others who have scored a hat trick of goals for Nigeria. The last such scorer was Victor Ikpeba against Namibia on September 2 of 2000, over a decade ago.

NOTES: Meanwhile, let us note that Coach Stephen Keshi continues to be at the helm of Nigeria's longest unbeaten streak which has now reached 18 and counting. This outstrips the 13-game record that stretched from September 30 of 1990 to January 19 of 1992.

**To learn more about Nigerian soccer statistics checkout CHUKASTATS at books.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I was browsing through some basic statistics of the Super Eagles a couple of days ago and came across Ogenyi Onazi's disciplinary record and it reminded me of Ifeanyi Udeze's a few years back. At the time, Udeze was Nigeria's all time leader in accumulation of yellow cards. Now, Onazi has taken that mantle, averaging 0.33 cards in 12 games.

Ordinarily, one would not associate Onazi with such a disciplinary record. He gives 100% effort on the field and is not perceived as a dirty player. So why the disciplinary record? Perhaps because his tackles can be jarring at times and his cautions (4 in last 7 games) are deserving. He is late on tackles and his defensive positioning is not the best. He reminds me, somewhat, of Mikel Obi in his early days as defensive midfielder under Jose Mourinho in Chelsea. At that time, Mikel was learning the rudiments of defensive play, anticipating an attacker's moves and playing in the right spaces in order to cleanly deny an opponent possession or space. Mikel took some time to learn and, of course, his lack of pace increased his learning curve. Mikel eventually learned and his disciplinary record for Nigeria is now 0.10 in 50 games. Not eye popping like Onazi's! Onazi is going through a similar learning curve as Obi but the Onazi's curve should be shorter as he has the pace to compensate for inexperience.

One hope's Onazi's current rate of accumulating cautions is not on a similar trajectory as that of Ifeanyi Udeze who did have the defensive abilities but chose to play at the margin of the rules and, thus, accumulated more cautions than was necessary. Udeze's average is 0.24 (8 in 33 games) and second, historically, only to Onazi's. I believe that Onazi is not choosing to play at the margins but is simply and diligently seeking to learn the responsibilities at his position, as best as he could. In the future, one expects his average to go down.


1. Ogenyi ONAZI..........0.33 (4/12 games)
2. Ambrose Efe..............0.20 (5/25)
3. Kenneth Omeruo.......0.18 (2/11)
4. Elderson Echiejile......0.16 (5/31)
5. Fegor Ogude..............0.14 (2/14)

To learn more about Nigerian soccer statistics checkout CHUKASTATS at books.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Building the New Super Eagles

I am more convinced than ever that Stephen Keshi is on the right track in building a strong Nigerian national football team -- Super Eagles. Already, this has led to Nigeria winning the Cup of African Nations -- its first in 19 years! But it is not just about winning the Cup. It is also about how the team has chosen to play. The team is much faster, more aggressive defensively, and controls possession than it had done in recent memory.

I had watched one of the team's early games -- a 2-3 loss to Egypt in an international friendly -- and even then these ideas on team play had begun to emerge. On that day, we saw a team that pressured the ball and unsettled a highly regarded Egypt. Also on exhibit that day was the pace of the players. Nigerian football had before Keshi settled into a languid slow style of play but it became clear against Egypt that the team would play differently.

Of course, the team has grown since then. Before the Cup of Nations, I was convinced that Nigeria had a chance to win the trophy even though many expected either Ghana or Ivory Coast to emerge champion. That conviction came from the team's international friendly against a Catalunya Selection. The game ended 1-1 but I saw enough on that day to believe. The team was disciplined in defense with the team maintaining its shape and shifting to the strong side of the ball in a classic zone defense. While Catalunya craftily sought to counter the tactics by playing wide with the ball, Nigeria recovered in most cases to shift the defensive attention.

Winning the Cup of Nations later in South Africa was indeed not entirely unexpected. However, the way the team dominated the tournament was surprising against the more respected Ivorien team. Nigeria underlined its arrival with ball possession which it dominated against its opponents in each game except in the Ivory Coast game which the statistics showed a 50:50 tie on possession.

Beyond the team's play on the field, the coach has clearly made his mark on the team in several other ways. He has boldly dropped some previously 'sacred' players and then has steadfastly worked to build a strong local team from which the full national team has benefitted.

What the coach is building is a sustainable team. That much is clear. Importantly, he knows that the team is not complete. Not just yet. In the coming months we expect a continued building of this team as Nigeria seeks a place at the 2014 World Cup finals. Good luck.