Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Victory Over Argentina is a Remarkable Comeback....

The 4-2 come back win in Russia against Argentina is an important marker. To come back from being 0-2 and being overrun by a top team like Argentina is remarkable. That should never be underestimated. Besides that marker, Rohr's decision to test the 3-5-2 formation is work in progress but there are indeed promises. As we saw after Nigeria went up 3-2, the defensive benefits from that formation proved important as it frustrated the Argentines repeatedly. It is likely that Rohr will call up that formation at critical moments at the World Cup.

But it must be clear that the 3-5-2 did not work very well at times. This was particularly clear with   Aina reluctant to join the attack and at times effectively rendering the system unbalanced on the left. Idowu's entry and his willingness to commit upfront created opportunities as the formation should, going forward. As for Aina's reluctance, is surprising because he had provided attacking promises in the game against Algeria. Although against Algeria, he had left the defense exposed in one of his moves upfront. Could that have led to his reluctance? I have no idea.

The 3-5-2 formation in the opening half was not static with Mikel and Iwobi frequently switching and in its ball recovery phase, Iwobi clearly was the one more likely to be withdrawn deep leaving Iheanacho advanced. Of course, Iwobi became the most advanced after Iheanacho's exit in the second half. Ultimately, Iwobi played his best game ever for Nigeria and Ebuehi was a pleasant revelation. Here is how I rated the players.

Daniel Akpeyi (1) -- 6.0 -- Made two blunders but overall was steady and made two important saves to keep the Argentines at bay. The first blunder appeared as if he perceived that Di Maria had been whistled off sides and he prepared to take the kick but as Aguero intervened, he picked up the ball leading to a ferric call. The second was a poor left foot clearance that could have cost Nigeria as it hit an attacker before going into throw in.

Chidozie Awaziem (20) - 5.8 -- Had a poor second half with some mind boggling tackles and then turning the ball over in dangerous position. In the first half he was left stranded allowing Otamendi a free header deep inside the box.

William Troost-Ekong (5) -- 7.0 -- Nigeria's best defender in this game. He was quick to cut off dangerous attacks and was business like as usual. Made several saves.

Leon Balogun (6) -- 6.0 -- Made a dangerous turnover in the opening half and then was beaten for pace leading to the second goal. Otherwise he had some good moments and was surprisingly confident on the ball against the South Americans.

Abdullahi Shehu (12) -- 6.0 -- Shehu was average in this game. Nothing remarkable except one important block of an Aguero attempt in the opening half.

Ola Aina (2) -- 6.0 -- This was an average game for him. Rarely joined the attack and his positioning in the opening half largely rendered the formation unbalanced down the left when going forward. However, he had some good defensive moments.

Wilfred Ndidi (19) -- 8. 0 -- Though Iwobi was very good but Ndidi was good from the opening minute to the last. He was the best player out there for long moments. His ability to recover the ball is growing every game. It was his ball recovery that led to Nigeria's equalizer early in the second half.

John Ogu (19) -- 6.4 -- Ogu was very confident and circulates the ball with quick one-twos. Rarely made a passing error in this game but otherwise was not very influential.

Mikel Obi (10) -- 6.5 -- Mikel had a good game and very confident on the ball as usual. However, as he tired it meant that his tracking back became more labored. His use in the system often felt like an interchange from a forward to midfield positioning.

Alex Iwobi (18) -- 8.0 -- This was Alex Iwobi's best game for Nigeria by far. He was still lively even when he was not seeing much of the ball in the opening half. He earned the foul that led to the free kick goal and then he scored a brace in the second half. His second goal was top quality as he embarrassed Mescherano before shooting craftily beyond the goalkeeper.

Kelechi Iheanacho (14) -- 6.5 -- Kelechi, apart from his masterful ferric goal late in the first half was largely anonymous. However, he exploded in the second half and provided two assists and could have scored a spectacular goal with a back flick in the second half.

Substitutes
Francis Uzoho (23) -- 6.3 -- Uzoho's debut was not much of a test but he exuded confidence. He was only called upon twice and he passed with flying colors. First he flicked a header over his goal and then he confidently punched a threatening lob off his goal area. Otherwise, it was a quiet debut.

Tyronne Ebuehi (17) -- 7.5 -- Tyrone was at the right place and at the right time at a every moment. This was a superb game for him both defending and going forward. He hardly put a foot wrong during his time in the game.

Kenneth Omeruo (4) -- 5.8 -- Was on for 30 minutes but was largely anonymous. In one moment he made an unforced concession into corner chesting the ball.

Brian Idowu (21) -- 6.3 -- He had a memorable debut. Came in and changed the play on the left by frequently joining the attack ending up putting Nigeria ahead for good with a well taken opportunity. He also defended very well late in the game.

Ahmed Musa (7) -- 6.0 --  Musa was in the game for 20 minutes and his effort was high both defending and attacking. Then he assisted Nigeria's fourth goal.  Beyond those, there was nothing else that was remarkable.

Kayode Olanrewaju (9) -- X -- Was not evaluated in only five minutes of play.