A two-man attack of Osimhen and Ighalo, Calvin Bassey ahead of Zaidu Sanusi are some of the changes Augustine Eguavoen needs to make ahead of the second leg
The first leg of the much-touted ‘Jollof Derby’ ended in a stalemate on Friday night as both countries failed to breach each other’s defence on a turgid night.
With the tie perfectly in the balance, or so we think, it is all to play for at the Moshood Abiola Stadium on Tuesday, March 29 as the Super Eagles host the Black Stars for the return leg.
Many Super Eagles fans expected their star-studded team to blow away the less-experienced Ghanaian side in Friday’s encounter.
However, the very attacking department where Nigeria hold an obvious edge over the Ghanaians was what went AWOL at Baba Yara.
A forward line that featured Victor Osimhen, Moses Simon, Samuel Chukwueze, Kelechi Iheanacho, and later Emmanuel Dennis and Ademola Lookman was able to muster only an abysmal two shots on target between them.
Effectively, this is the brief for the Super Eagles interim manager Augustine Eguavoen on Tuesday. Get the attackers to deliver.
The Super Eagles need to come out of the tracks blazing in Abuja. The longer they take to find the back of the net on Tuesday, the more emboldened the Ghanaians would be. The more likely their home fans’ advantage could easily turn to pressure for Eguavoen’s side.
Thus, the changes Eguavoen needs to make are mostly in the attacking positions as well as the attacking tactics of the team.
Return Frank Onyeka to the team
The curious case of Frank Onyeka since AFCON 2021 has been one that is beyond explanation. The 24-year-old has gone from a regular starter for Brentford to the bench after returning from Cameroon for no obvious reason.
He could never have displaced Wilfred Ndidi as a starter for Nigeria at the AFCON but Eguavoen must have realised his mistake in starting Innocent Bonke ahead of Onyeka against the Ghanaians.
Onyeka’s impressive 31-minute cameo against the Ghanaians showed he does not lack match fitness and Eguavoen must not be tempted to start the less-imaginative Oghenekaro Etebo ahead of the Brentford star.
Switch up the attacking playbook
Of the front three that started against Ghana on Friday, only Victor Osimhen justified his place. With desire at least, if not results.
The strength of this Super Eagles side is the sheer number of goals that their strikers have scored this season but on Friday, two of the most prolific scorers in the team (Odion Ighalo & Umar Sadiq) did not even see gametime.
Thus, Eguavoen should consider switching to a 4-4-2 attacking playbook with Osimhen and either Odion Ighalo or Emmanuel Dennis starting as a two-man strikeforce.
While it would be a tough call to make, one of Moses Simon or Samuel Chukwueze needs to make way in the second leg, most likely the Villarreal attacker.
For Moses Simon, the directive should be clear: Do away with the extravagant dribbles and get the ball into the box as soon as possible.
Bench Zaidu, start Calvin Bassey
It was no surprise to see Porto’s Zaidu Sanusi start in the left-back role for Nigeria on Friday night but the same reason the 24-year-old was chosen ahead of Rangers’ Calvin Bassey has now been eroded.
Sanusi represented the ‘safe, settled’ option for Eguavoen, having owned the left-back since he made his debut in October 2020.
In a fixture where the Super Eagles must score, Eguavoen must simply go for the better attacking option in the left-back position and that is simply Bassey.
The 22-year-old Scotland-based defender is more attack-minded than Sanusi and would provide the same defensive solidity for the Super Eagles as Sanusi does.
The Ghanaian defence was rarely troubled on Friday and the introduction of a more mobile and more forceful Bassey would give Denis Odoi & co. something more to worry about.