Super Eagles’ Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr has declared that the technical team of the three-time African champions took many positives away from Saturday’s friendly against England at Wembley despite coming short by two goals to one against the Three Lions.
More than 70,000 fans saw the prestige encounter, in which first-half goals by Gary Cahill and Harry Kane rendered Alex Iwobi’s effort two minutes into the second half little more than consolation.
“There were many positives from that game. When you play a friendly match, it is not always about winning. You have the opportunity to try so many players and formations, and we achieved our aim at Wembley.
“Now, we have our final 23 players for the World Cup. It is good that we have another opportunity to try a couple of things, when we play the Czech Republic on Wednesday.”
The Eagles were cleanly derobed of all illusions in a fire-and-brimstone first 45 minutes, but at the end of the final whistle, they left the Wembley turf as men who have lost their cataracts and certain assumptions and know exactly what to do when they take to the pitch at the World Cup in Russia in two weeks.
Gary Cahill scored from a powerful header by leaping highest in-between Skipper Mikel Obi and William Ekong, and with a diminutive Ogenyi Onazi, the man left to ward off danger on the line. The ball easily flew over his head.
While some would argue that youthful goaltender Francis Uzoho should have done better with Kane’s drilled shot from the edge of the 18 –yard area, the former Golden Eaglet made several interventions that kept Nigeria in the game and boosted his personal confidence going to the World Cup finals.
Midfielder John Ogu, brought in to support Bryan Idowu at left back in the second period, was another revelation, as he made six interceptions to keep things tight at the back and keep the Three Lions at bay.
Kenneth Omeruo, Ahmed Musa, Oghenekaro Etebo and Tyronne Ebuehi also held firm on the Wembley pitch after coming into the fray, and Rohr would have been delighted that Arsenal FC’s Alex Iwobi has lost none of his poacher’s instincts, in the manner he scored the Eagles’ lone goal and first ever goal by Nigeria against England. It was in the same manner of being alert and precise that Iwobi scored his two goals for Nigeria in the World Cup qualifiers, away and home to Zambia.
And on a weekend that reigning world champions Germany, as well as World Cup Group D opponents Croatia and Iceland lost, the Super Eagles can only make use of lessons learnt to design a better approach to games in Russia.
On the evidence of the various tasks they were able to accomplish in their team tactics, formations and player assessments, neither Rohr nor England’s Gareth Southgate would feel the game put together by the Nigeria Football Federation and The Football Association was a waste of time.
While the Lions head to Leeds to play Costa Rica on Thursday in their final match ahead of the World Cup, the Super Eagles tackle Czech Republic in Vienna on Wednesdsay.