Another questionable performance from the Super Eagles ensured a 1 – 0 defeat to the Czech Republic in the Rudolf Tonn Stadium in Austria on Wednesday. The defeat translates to two consecutive losses for the Super Eagles and one draw ahead of their Group D World Cup clash against Croatia on the 16th of June.
The Super Eagles started on a high note that resulted in a few half chances for Odion Ighalo. However as the game went on, the Czechs started to pressure immensely on corners that resulted in smart saves from Francis Uzoho and a last ditch goal line clearance from Abdullahi Shehu. Unfortunately the rear guard could not hold off for much longer as Thomas Kalas snatched on to ball parried out by Uzoho to break the deadlock in the 25th minute.
The Super Eagles could not create clear cut chances and Victor Moses came closest in the 1st half by forcing a great save from Tomas Vaclik from a free kick close to the box. Nigeria came back stronger in the 2nd half but were unable to seriously test the Czech Republic defence despite dominating possession. The game was also interrupted for about 10 minutes in the 2nd half due to heavy rainfall.
Confidence in the National team ahead of the World Cup in Russia is certainly not on overdrive; as a matter of fact it is deteriorating pretty fast. The general opinion of Nigerians is that if the team cannot get at least a win from the three preparatory games against DR Congo, England and the Czech Republic, then the chances of a good showing in a very tough group is slim.
The most flagrant issue the Super Eagles faced in the friendly was the apparent weakness in set pieces. It felt like after one or two corners that our defence failed to deal with, the Czech’s deliberately started forcing corners. This is an area of weakness that has existed for a long time and one will expect that Super Eagle’s coach Gernot Rohr would have sorted out the issues at the back – better late than never.
Although the Super Eagles sometimes switched to a 5-3-2 in the game, they mostly lined up with a 4-3-2-1 formation, but John Ogu dropped deep to make it three at the back and Moses occasionally moved up ahead to join Ighalo up front. It is quite clear now that the 4-2-3-1 formation will not take the national team very far in the World Cup in Russia and they are better off with a 5-3-2 formation.
Moses was the only supplier of driving pace and quality in the game but he overplayed too much at times which needs to curbed. The Super Eagles have very few players with that ability and he will need to be at his lifetime best if the team will be successful at the World Cup. Alex Iwobi was not very assertive in the game, his impact was not felt – almost like he glided through the game. He has to demand the ball more often and our progression from defence to attack must likely come through him, which did not happen against the Czech’s.
Uzoho’s performance brought a glimmer of hope to the team, and he is most likely going to be in between the post at the World Cup in Russia. He was tested on set pieces against Czech Republic but he held his own, and the goal conceded was no fault of his. Judging by the past three performances from the Super Eagles it is hard to see the national team qualify out of the group but it is Nigeria, and unpredictable is their middle name.