With Nigeria’s 1-0 victory over the Pharaohs of Egypt, we look at 10 keys lessons to take away in ahead of the second round of Group D games
Austin Eguavoen’s coming is a good thing
For the first time in months, the Super Eagles played quite the compact football under interim manager Austin Eguavoen compared to what was seen under former manager Gernot Rohr. The team made as many as 334 passes (75% accuracy) and completed 65% of their attempted dribbles. Although the match stats showed otherwise, Nigeria played quite possessive football.
Austin Eguavoen (R) only took charge of the Super Eagles few days to the AFCON
Kelechi Iheanacho is a great finisher
Nigeria’s opener against Egypt further buttressed the point that Iheanacho is a great finisher. The forward controlled a brilliant pass from Joe Aribo with his chest, before tucking it into the top right corner with his favourite left foot. It was a goal that contributed majorly to winning him the man-of-the-match award.
Moses Simon is a beast down the left
Arguably Nigeria’s best player on the day, Moses Simon was a constant danger on the left flank, forcing off Egypt’s starting left-back Akram Tawfik and, subsequently in the game, starting the build-up to Nigeria’s winner. Simon also had some good runs in the second half of the game, placing him in the conversations of Nigeria’s best go-to assets at this AFCON.
Mostafa Mohamed (L) of Egypt and Moses Simon (R) of Nigeria contest possession during an Africa Cup of Nations Group D match at Stade Roumde Adjia in Cameroon
Omeruo was a solid rock, and the defence combined well
Before being stretchered off, Kenneth Omeruo was a rock in the centre of the defence for Nigeria. The centre-back contributed to major shot blocks to keep Egypt at bay. In general, Omeruo combined finely with William Troost-Ekong, Ola Aina and Zaidu Sanusi in wading off Egypt’s attack.
Salah played more centrally
Egypt’s coach Carlos Queiroz played his best player out of position, as compared to Jurgen Klopp’s style at Liverpool to play Salah closer to goal, a position from where he shines best. Continuing this way might mean that, with the right winger out of position, Egypt won’t go far.
Joe Aribo provided good balance (for Wilfred Ndidi)
Aribo was one of the Nigeria’s most intelligent players against Egypt. With great decision making, he was able to combine well with Ndidi, winning the midfield battle the Egyptians. He capped off his performance with a fine assist for Iheanacho. We should be seeing more of him in the coming games.
Samuel Chukwueze will rue having a drab day
For the 70 minutes he played for the Super Eagles, Chukwueze was a shadow of himself. The winger perhaps was Nigeria’s worst player of the starting XI, moving sluggishly during counterattacks, and producing nothing to talk about. He would most likely be dropped for Nigeria’s second group game.
Egypt relied heavily on Mohamed Salah, and suffered for it
For the entirety of the first half, Egypt showed no real threat or pressure against the Super Eagles. Salah was kept at bay as well. The few times Egypt would have a chance at goal, it would be because Salah was involved. Nigeria executed their game plan to keep the Liverpool star man out and in turn, stop the Egyptians.
In the battle of the Premier League stars, it was Iheanacho who came out on top. (CAF)
The current Egyptian squad is far from the Egypt we’ve always known
The Pharaohs on the day against Nigeria showed nothing close to their long history of illustrious football. Coming into the AFCON, Egypt were fancied as tournament favourites, but with such a poor display in their opening fixture against Nigeria, the seven-time African champions might not make it past the round of 16.
Super Eagles should have scored more, they were wasteful
Despite the win, with 15 shots in total and about three big chances, Eguavoen’s squad would have scored more goals in the game. Of the 15 efforts on goal, only 5 were on target. The Super Eagles were wasteful and will have to work on that.