Four takeaways from Nigeria Super Eagles’s disappointing World Cup qualifying draw with Zimbabwe in Rwanda
The Super Eagles registered their second disappointing result in four days as they could only manage a 1-1 draw with Zimbabwe at the Huye stadium in Rwanda on Sunday afternoon.
Here are CitySports’ takeaways from that game:
Super Eagles’ attack is toothless without Victor Osimhen
Napoli forward Victor Osimhen scored ten of Nigeria’s 22 goals in six games during qualification to help Nigeria book a spot at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
In his absence, the Super Eagles have found the back of the net only two times in two games and missed loads of scoring chances to leave the country’s World Cup hopes in jeopardy.
Nigeria indeed boast several exciting attackers in Europe, but none of Victor Boniface, Umar Sadiq, Terem Moffi, and Taiwo Awoniyi could come to the team’s rescue when needed.
Safe to say, Nigeria stand no chance of impressing at Ivory Coast 2023 if Osimhen is not in the team.
Calvin Bassey is not a centre-back
At Fulham with Marco Silva and the national team with Jose Peseiro, there is a deliberate effort to convert Calvin Bassey from a left-back to a centre-back.
However, results across the board show that the transformation, no matter how brilliant it seems on paper, is not working on the pitch.
Bassey gets his positioning wrong almost all the time, strikers make runs past him easily, and he does little covering for his centre-back partner. He still thinks and plays like a left-back.
The Super Eagles have conceded first in the four games Bassey and Semi Ajayi have started in defence.
This experimentation has not worked during the World Cup qualifiers and will not have been perfected before the AFCON kicks off.
Peseiro would do well to consider how unstable the Super Eagles’ defence looks against Lesotho and Zimbabwe and how happy that would make the Ivorians, Egyptians, and Senegalese.
Nigeria have traditional centre-backs in Kenneth Omeruo, William Troost-Ekong, Chidozie Awaziem, and Semi Ajayi, whatever their deficiencies are.
It would be a smart move for Peseiro to find a suitable pair among those.
Peseiro makes too many questionable decisions
Many of Peseiro’s decisions, especially his team selection, have been illogical.
Peseiro left out Paul Onuachu and Alhassan Yusuf, who are having the best time at Trabzonspor and Royale Antwerp, but called up Joe Aribo and Umar Sadiq, who are both struggling at Southampton and Real Sociedad, respectively.
Aribo has started just one match for Southampton this season, but straight he goes into the first eleven in a crucial away game.
Kelechi Iheanacho was Nigeria’s best player in Uyo, but Peseiro benched him in Butare.
Nigeria is a country of about 200 million people, and Francis Uzoho cannot be the best goalkeeper, even from his home state of Imo. Still, Peseiro would rather have a tortoise in between the posts than play somebody else.
Nigeria’s World Cup hopes in South Africa’s hands
After securing only two points from two games, Nigeria will need a Moses-parting-the-Red-Sea kind of miracle to qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup with Jose Peseiro in charge of the national team.
Across ten grueling qualifying matches, the Super Eagles, as constituted under Peseiro, cannot match South Africa and Zimbabwe in Group C.
Peseiro’s team lacks passion, shows zero creativity, and possesses no tact, grit, guts, or composure.
The three-time African champions were sloppy and sluggish inside the Huye Stadium and were second-best to Zimbabwe for the best part of the afternoon.
With two points in two games, Nigeria will go four points behind South Africa should the Bafana Bafana beat Rwanda on Tuesday.
It will require a monumental comeback to overtake the South Africans from that point onwards.