Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Unlocking Nigeria v Zambia: The Keys......




These five keys will decide the Nigeria v Zambia qualifier Saturday. Nigeria is at home in Uyo but unmistakably, the team that is under greater pressure will be Zambia. Zambia must earn a point or three away from home to have a chance of qualifying for their first World Cup. A point only provides a dim chance! Thus, a win is preferred and to win away in Nigeria requires a high level of motivation. Nigeria can qualify in Uyo on Saturday or wait to do so in Algeria in the next month. That should be motivation for Nigeria but not necessarily one that induces extreme pressure.
1.              Victor Moses starts at the top of his game. Moses has become the barometer for Nigeria. When he plays well, Nigeria always has a big chance and Nigeria is yet to lose a home game played by Moses. Zambia will clearly strategize to take both Moses and Mikel Obi off their game but planning to do so is a big difference from actually succeeding in doing so.
2.              The first goal will decide whether Nigeria qualifies Saturday or is forced to wait. If Nigeria scores first, Zambia will surrender. If Zambia scores first, Nigeria’s best result could be a draw. That is how important that first goal will be for both sides. Further, that opening goal should come in the opening half.
3.              Nigeria’s defense is critical in this game. If it is 90% as disciplined as it was against Cameroon, it will assure that Nigeria does not concede against the quick Zambian attack and provide opportunity for Nigeria to get to the World Cup. That defense was crucial against Cameroon, providing few openings for Cameroon to shoot at goal, ceaselessly and quickly closing down on Cameroon attackers in dangerous areas.
4.              That Ndidi and Onazi provide adequate cover for Nigeria’s defense. They were amazing in both Cameroon’s games and Nigeria needs both of them, not just one, to do well against Zambia. Both win a lot of balls and help distribute to more advanced players. Opportunities to win balls against Zambia will be there as Zambia is not adept at ball possession. Those two players are Nigeria’s unsung players.
5.              Nigeria winning set pieces, including flag kicks, could decide the game. Zambia usually concedes set pieces in bunches and Nigeria needs set pieces to threaten goalkeeper Mweene. Yes, Nigeria has not scored much from such opportunities, I the past, but has been close and one such opportunity may be converted against Zambia to decide this critical game.


These five keys will decide the Nigeria v Zambia qualifier Saturday. Nigeria is at home in Uyo but unmistakably, the team that is under greater pressure will be Zambia. Zambia must earn a point or three away from home to have a chance of qualifying for their first World Cup. A point only provides a dim chance! Thus, a win is preferred and to win away in Nigeria requires a high level of motivation. Nigeria can qualify in Uyo on Saturday or wait to do so in Algeria in the next month. That should be motivation for Nigeria but not necessarily one that induces extreme pressure.