Sunday Oliseh began his reign as Super Eagles manager on a mediocre note as the Super Eagles played out a drab goalless draw with the Taifa Stars of Tanzania in Daresalaam.
It was a game the Super Eagles were clearly second best. Oliseh had debutante, Carl Ikeme, to thank for the score line as he made a couple of excellent saves that stopped Tanzania from getting a victory that could have condemned Oliseh to a defeat in only his first game in charge.
If Oliseh did not realise the enormity of the task he had inherited when he took over from Stephen Keshi, he would now after watching this performance. The Eagles were quite painful to watch.
The same old problems remain for the Super Eagles: a lack of creative midfielders, bang average forwards and a shaky back line. These areas remain a conundrum for the Nigerian national team managers. The most glaring weakness of the team is the midfield which is key to many a successful team.
The Super Eagles midfielders who were on the field of play in Dare salaam failed to make a case for their continued inclusion in the national team as their performance was not up to scratch. Obiorah Nwankwo who is a defensive midfielder, failed to provide the protection the defence needed to contain the Taifa Stars who were able to breach the Super Eagles defence easily.
Haruna Lukman who was a surprise call up in the first place, failed woefully to justify his recall to the squad with a performance so dire that Oliseh felt he had seen enough after 35 minutes and quickly hooked him off and replaced him with Sylvester Igboun.
The attack fared slightly better than the midfield with some attempts on goal through Emmanuel Emenike, although, I can’t recall Tanzania goal keeper, Ally Mustapha, making any save of note as most of the attempts on goal either went wide or were blocked by a well organised Tanzania defence. A poor midfield didn’t help matters as they were unable to unlock a resolute Tanzania defence.
The defence came out of this game unscathed for a second game in a row. This however, cannot be said to be as a result of the excellent performance of the back line but a combination of good fortune, poor marksmanship and world class goalkeeping from our goal keepers. When the Super Eagles lock horns with the Pharaohs of Egypt in their next two games, they should not expect them to be as generous as the Tanzanians.
The midfield failed to provide adequate cover for the defence, so the defence was easily breached. But the Tanzanians ran into an inspired and an in-form Ikeme who ensured that the absence of first choice, Vincent Enyeama, who had to be excused due to a family bereavement was not missed.
So what positives can we take out of this game? The one positive that can be taken out of this game is the performance of Carl Ikeme. Ikeme who is currently the goal keeping number 2 at English club Wolverhampton Wanderers, showed that he is more than a capable deputy to Vincent Enyeama and should probably go on to be his successor after Enyeama hangs his gloves after the 2017 African Cup of Nations in Gabon (if Nigeria qualifies of course).
The other positive is that the Super Eagles have not conceded yet. And when you don’t concede, you can’t lose. But if you don’t score, you can’t win either…
A draw has to go down as a positive result for Oliseh if the display in Daresalaam is anything to go by because frankly, the Super Eagles deserved to get beat. A repeat of such a show against Egypt especially in Cairo could spell an embarrassing defeat.
What does Coach Sunday Oliseh have to do to keep the Super Eagles on track? He should be having Ogenyi Onazi back from suspension in the next game. His presence should bring some solidity and threat from the midfield. John Obi Mikel’s presence in midfield remains influential until we find another flair player of his calibre or if the likes of Joel Obi become available.
The defence is decent enough. With good protection from the defensive midfield the defenders should be able to cope with the likes of Mohammed Salah and company. The right back position which has been a problematic area for the Super Eagles has not been fully sorted even though team appears to be gradually reaching a long term solution for that position. Solomon Kwambe had a decent performance but the jury is still out on him after all, he only played because Leon Balogun (a centre back by trade) pulled out because of injury.
As for the forwards, a swift recall for the likes of Victor Moses and Sone Aluko is imperative. Since the attacking/creative midfield jigsaw puzzle defies solution at this point in time, we need the trickery and threat of these two wingers to score goals. Oliseh should also try and test the resolve of Jordan Ibe and Victor Anichebe and see if he can convince them to play for Nigeria.
If the likes of Lukman Haruna can earn a call up to the Super Eagles, I don’t see any reason why these players including players such as Kelechi Iheanacho ( who surely, can’t do any worse than Haruna) can’t have invitations extended to them.
Paul Oviero works and lives in Lagos. He is an ardent follower of Nigerian football and a fan of Manchester United. He writes articles about football regularly on his blog at paulovieroskoles.blogspot.com