Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Luxembourg Game and the Super Eagles (Ratings Included)

The score line of 3-1 over Luxembourg meant little in the larger scheme of things but you felt that Nigeria could have gone home with a much larger victory over this Luxembourg team. The domination was total except for the first few minutes when Nigeria appeared disjointed and disorganized. In the end, not much can be taken from this game except a few things that I point to below.

1.     Omeruo’s mistakes are getting a bit too troubling. This is not the first and you hope it is the last one. His unforced error let Luxembourg into the game when they hardly merited it.

2.     Kelechi Iheanacho had a coming out party tonight. It was by far his best game and now he definitely must be the starting striker. The way he moved about, his confidence, his ability to be at the right place and at the right time is simply mindboggling. I state it now, Nigeria has not had a sharp forward like this since Thompson Usiyan. Forget Obafemi Martins, Ike Uche, and the rest. I know it is Luxembourg, but the things you saw from Iheanacho tonight or you saw in his games with City has a clear signature to it.
3.     Though Nigeria never seemed to get into a second gear in this game, you sensed their superiority over Luxembourg.

4.     In the first half, Nigeria’s transition from attack to defending is simply poor at the moment. In several cases, the midfielders looked out of place when we did not have the ball after surging forward.
5.     Onazi Ogenyi, skipper for today, but his misplaced passes are quickly accumulating and on many occasions there are easier options to play the pass. Watching Shehu Abdullahi play today, it seems to me that he will be a much better defensive midfield partner for Mikel Obi.

In any case here are my ratings for the players along with very brief comments (Scale 1-10/6 is average):

Daniel Akpeyi (16) – 6.0 – Did very little and may well have been on a vacation. He answered the long range efforts of the outclassed Luxembourg team.

Musa Mohammed (19) – 6.2 – It is hard to tell that this guy was only playing his second game for Nigeria. He really fits in with assured display. Perhaps, it was just Luxembourg. Just maybe.

Uwa Echiejile (3) – 6.0 – Average and subdued display from Echiejile. It seems that his career at this level may well be on the downward trend.

William Troost-Ekong (5) 6.8 – This guy was never one of my favorites but my hat off to him. He was businesslike and his usual couple of errors did not exist today. IMHO, the best defender on the field today.

Kenneth Omeruo (4) 6.0 – Average display and his forays upfront, albeit few, are disasters waiting to happen. Then in the dying minutes, he turned the ball over unforced. His time in the middle of that defense is increasingly numbered.

Onazi Ogenyi (cpt-17) – 5.7 – A big weakness passing the ball any meaningful distance. He has too many poor passes in a game that it makes you wonder how long he will retain a starting shirt.

Abdullahi Shehu (12) – 6.5 – IMHO, knocking on the door as the starting defensive midfields besides the absent Mikel Obi. This lad was all over covering the defense and making the right decision with the ball on all occasions.

Alex Iwobi (20) – 5.9 -- Largely anonymous in this game. Appears to defer too much to others. We know he has the talent but he must begin to demonstrate this consistently at this level.

Umar Aminu (13) – 7.0 – Very dangerous player and with pace. He was totally responsible for the opening goal and most of the dangerous first half attack. However, he appears to ditter too much with the ball which slows the other players. This dittering has to change going forward. Just my tuppence.

Kelechi Iheanacho (10) – 7.2 – Truly outstanding in this game. It isn’t just his goal and his assist but his overall domination of the game. See my comment on top of the page. A truly great one, it appears.

Brown Ideye (8) – 6.0 – He took his goal particularly well considering his problems in similar situations in the past. Apart from that, not much else was on display.

Raheem Lawal (18) – 6.2 – He stroked the ball along and did make himself available as an outlet for defensive passes. He fit in seamlessly and had a good game.

Michael Babatunde (7) – 5.9 – This guy works hard but his control can be wild at times as was the case on several occasions today. Then he fluffed a one and one chance at the very end when it seemed easy to score.

Moses Simon (11) – 6.0 – Very talented player with pace. However, he tends to focus on individual play a bit much. However, he had the vision to make the pass for the second goal. IMO, an average display today.

Wilfred Ndidi (21) – 6.0 – Nothing spectacular but he put in an assured display but he is not ready to step into a starting role as of now.

Gbenga Arokoyo (2) – 5.9 – Average and unnoticed in this game. Then  fell asleep and lost a pass from his goalkeeper early on. Not much from this player in this game.

Jude Ighalo (9) – 5.9 –An average display and he finally scored after going scoreless in several games for Nigeria. However, he had his share of misses even though he was on for just 20 minutes. A particularly example of this is when Iheanacho sent him through with a long pass in the 79th minute only for him to fail to lift the ball past an uncovered goalie.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Siblings, Father-Son national team careers in Nigeria ...

Today, we have searched through the database to bring you statistics comparing members of a footballing family. The topic is about comparing brothers who have played for the Nigerian national team and comparing fathers and sons who also have played for the Nigerian national team.

Brother Statistics
The brother data shows 18 such relationships since the start of the Nigerian national team in 1949. The most celebrated ones are the Okalas (Emmanuel and Patrick), Uches (Kalu and Ikechukwu), and Eguavoens (Monday and Augustine). The only two brothers to debut in the same game are the Atuegbu brothers when Andrew and Aloysius debuted against Ivory Coast on July 14 of 1974. Andrew ended up playing far less games because he chose to leave club soccer in Nigeria to study abroad in the United States. The entire Atuegbu playing clan of brothers also included Mathew and Nicholas, who did not make it to the national team level.

Examining the data shows that often one brother may not be as good as the other, as far as playing in the national team is concerned. However, the Atuegbus, Eguavoens, Ekpes, Odegbamis, Okalas, Onyedikas, and Uches were brother pairs that clearly deserved their call ups in the national team and it showed in their display. In terms of scoring, both the Odegbami and Uche brothers were legitimate threats.

Father/Son Statistics
We found data for four (4) father and son records. The most celebrated of such father-son playing statistics has to be Teslimi "Thunder" Balogun and his son, Kayode "Zege" Balogun. Of Teslimi's sons, one would have predicted that Tunde Balogun, would be the one most likely to follow his father's footsteps by playing for Nigeria and likely earning more appearances than his father. His father's career featured just 8 appearances because he played in a period when national team appearances were highly limited. However, in spite of Tunde dominating high school soccer and earning a scholarship to play at a USA university, he never made it to the Nigerian national team. Instead, it was left for his much younger brother, Kayode, to earn a solitary appearance for Nigeria against Canada in 1984.The father, Tesilimi "Thunder," played in Nigeria's first ever game on October 8 of 1949. By then, he was already in mid career. Surely, he is one player who would have amassed a far more impressive statistics for Nigeria if the national team was created much earlier and if he had the benefit of far more games than the one game a year played by Nigeria in those early years.

Table of Statistics
Below are the rest of the records. Enjoy and please let us know if you think that we have left out a family that should have been listed.

Monday, May 23, 2016

'Academy-route' Players and Share of Minutes at Super Eagles Level

Increasingly, many Nigerian players leave the country from youth teams or academies to clubs in Europe where they are eased into the regular club via the club's youth team. Of course, this is less of a risk for European clubs and, thus, easier access to Europe for Nigerian players. 

However, for players at the top tier of the Nigerian league, the path to Europe is more difficult for several reasons. First, they often must try out for a place in the main squad of the foreign team and their success depends on a variety of factors including performance, health, quality of remuneration, and availability of squad space. Thus, increasingly Nigerian league players are choosing the alternative route of North African and South African clubs as gateways to Europe.

Ultimately, then, it is not surprising that many Nigerian youth level players put off joining the top tier of the local league and instead seek access to developmental squads of foreign clubs. A recent example of this is Moses Simon who spurned an opportunity to join Kaduna United in the Nigerian top-tier and instead waited for opportunity to head to a foreign club.

Based on the above, it seems likely that an increasing number of Nigerian players at the Super Eagles level will consist of players who are largely bred in Nigeria but chose not to play top tier Nigerian football before heading for Europe. The condition "bred in Nigeria" is necessary to differentiate this group of players from those who have appeared for Nigeria but only because they were born to a Nigerian parent but were not bred in Nigeria.

Data provided here explores the effect on the Nigerian national team of this behavior by Nigerian football labor in the last 10 years. We examine the share of minutes played by such players designated "Academy-route" players and the number of them appearing on the national team on an annual basis in the last 10 years.

The table below reveals an increasing number of "Academy-route" players beginning to show up in the national team with as many as 10 of them appearing for the national team in 2015. Based on our exploratory findings, the ten were Kenneth Omeruo, Ogenyi Onazi, Moses Simon, Anderson Esiti, Lukman Haruna, Sylvester Igbonu, Izunna Uzochukwu, Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Obafemi Martins. None of those players appeared for a top tier team in Nigeria before playing overseas. The likes of Onazi (El Kanemi) and Omeruo (Sunshine), as far as we can ascertain, were in youth teams of Nigeria's top tier clubs but did not feature for the main team before leaving for a foreign club. Additionally, the share of minutes earned by such players in the Super Eagles has increased with a high of 17% in all games in 2015 and 19% in competitive games in the same year.  The low number in 2016 is exaggerated by the national team playing few games so far and a significant number of those  games were restricted to players based at home.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Super Eagles and Top Scoring Years in Last Decade

The last two years have seen the scoring averages per game for Nigeria's national team plummet to the lowest points in the last 10 years. Those are shocking statistics, considering that the team just achieved its top scoring averages within a three year period (2011-2013). While we do not attempt to guess at what may have led to this poor state of affairs, we post the statistics in the figure below for your view. Note that the sharp rise of player scoring statistics in 2006 and 2016 are aberrant as the players who are responsible for those two high points played less than 5 games in each of those years.

Nevertheless, it is important to look at the scoring average for the team's top scorer in each of the last ten years. As noted earlier, some of those averages are aberrant considering that the top scorer in  years 2006, 2009, and 2016 participated in less than five games each. In essence, the top scorer was involved in far less games than the regularly used striker for that year. That is a sad comment on the value of the designated striker in those years. But so also was the designated striker in 2007 when a defender, Taye Taiwo, emerged the team's top scorer. 

In any case, besides those statistics being considered aberrant, we note that a clear top striker emerged in the three years in which the team's scoring averages were the highest (2011 to 2013). Of course, Nigeria went on to become Africa's champion in 2013. The best scoring year (2011) was under Coach Samson Siasia in 2011 when the team was freely scoring. Importantly, in each of the three top scoring years, the scoring average for the top scorer was over a goal in two games. In other years, the top scorer for the team barely averaged a goal in three games!