Super Eagles versus Desert Foxes

Odegbami: The War In Uyo – The Super Eagles Versus The Desert Foxes!

Next weekend there is going to be a war in Uyo. The Akwa Ibom State capital is fast becoming the football capital of Nigeria. 

Everyone can now appreciate the vision of the State Government and the benefits of locating a magnificent state-of-the-art stadium complex in one of the remote State capitals of Nigeria. Not only has that move drawn maximum media attention to the city, it also moves a whole travelling army of football followers, tens of thousands of them from outside the State, to the city every time Nigeria’s most powerful and best advertising product, the Super Eagles, go to play there. 

Next weekend, therefore, all roads will lead once again to Uyo where the team that has never lost a match on the ground takes on the Desert Foxes of Algeria in a match that can possibly determine the team that will represent Group D of the African qualifiers at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. 

That’s how important and critical this match is. 

Only a few months ago very few Nigerians would have given the Super Eagles, a jaded team in the past two years, much of a chance against Algeria miles ahead of Nigeria in the global FIFA rankings. I recall that the Desert Foxes have been rated the best national team on the continent in recent years. 

But the last few months have proved to be a very long time indeed for both teams as they undergo massive internal changes. The positions may be shifting since the group matches started and Nigeria now lies atop the group. 

Recently, the Nigerian team hired a new foreign technical adviser, German coach Gernot Rohr, to rejig the national team. 

Also, on the eve of the Nigerian match, with only two weeks to the epic game, the Algerian Football Federation got rid of their former coach after drawing their last World Cup qualifier against Cameroon in Algiers, and replaced him with another foreigner, one who had coached the same team some 13 years ago and had stints with a few other African countries since then– Belgian Georges Leekens.  

Since Rohr took over the Super Eagles, the Nigerian team has looked alert, has improved considerably and has been playing with greater confidence. Rohr has surely been instilling some discipline and organization to the team with the growing number of new, young and gifted forwards that fate has been throwing in his path. In the past few months Nigeria’s attack can now boast of some of the continent’s most lethal strikers.

True, the Eagles may not have been scoring as many goals as the strikers available to the team deserve, but I believe they will still play all night on the night, probing the Algerian goal from all angles, with their defense struggling to contain what promises to be a ceaseless onslaught. 

A quick look at the strikers available to Rohr is revealing: Victor Moses (probably in the best form of his career up till now); Iheanacho (one of the most improved African players in the ongoing EPL season); Iwobi (a great attacking midfielder); Ighalo (a bulldozer of a striker keeping defenders busy all night); and Ahmed Musa (one of the fastest forwards in European football now getting some regular playing time in Leicester City FC). 

I predict that one player that will make all the difference in this match is Victor Moses. He, in particular, has settled down as a fixture in the new improving Chelsea FC side. This has given him the confidence to raise his game to a very high level. He would be the greatest thorn in the heart of the Algerians. 

THE WAR IN UYO  

How the Algerian defense will contain and survive these rampaging Nigerian forwards is what the ‘war’ in Uyo is all about. 

The Desert Foxes are a very solid team. They are mature and experienced campaigners in African football. They are probably the most technical team in the continent, always a difficult team for most African teams to play against because of their tactical depth. 

They also come to Uyo with an exciting front line of two of Africa’s current best players. 

Riyad Mahrez. This left-footed player playing from the right side of attack is always a bundle to handle for any defender. His performances in Leicester City’s fairytale success in the EPL last season (ending up as champions) has the imprint of Mahrez written all over it. Little wonder he was elected by his co-players in the EPL as their choice of Player of the year. 

The duel between him and Nigeria’s also very experienced left-back, Echiejile, will be truly exciting to watch.

Add to that the presence of the ever- prowling striker, Algeria’s golden boy and 2014 World Cup hero, Mahrez’s teammate in Leicester City, Islam Slimani! 

Slimani joined Leicester City this season from Sporting Lisbon where he was scoring goals with abandon last season to add to the team’s firepower. This is the combination they bring to the Algerian national team and will be unleashed in Uyo. 

The war in Uyo will be real. It will be a battle of the forwards, with a formidable Algerian attack tormenting the Nigerian defense as much and as well as the Nigerian attackers will also be doing to the Algerian defense line. 

I am looking at my old crystal ball now. The match will be closely fought and keenly contested. There will not be many goals. A slim victory for Nigeria looks like being on the cards. 

Or, a draw? A draw would be the best the Desert Foxes can ever hope for from this match, even if that would be really bad news for Nigeria. 

My advice to all those who are postulating about the outcome of this critically important match is that they set aside all their preconceived notions about tradition, records, history, computations, permutations and look towards a terrific match between two very powerful and technically savvy teams.  

Where would the pendulum of victory swing? I go back to my old crystal ball and peer into its lenses,it reveals nothing

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2 Comments

  1. I enjoyed the article and you tagging the match "war" is not right. I believe all the 6 matches we will play are all wars. Do you think if Nigeria travel to Cameroon and Algeria or Zambia and Cameropn coming to Nigeria is going to be easy? As it stands and from what I saw Zambia vs Nigeria, Zambia can get a draw or even win in Cameroon. Anything can happen and the  wish of Nigerians is for all 3 opponents to drop points at one stage of the qualifier. Anyway if wishes were as easy, I believe everyone will want to be billionaires. As you said Algerians are wounded with that draw vs Cameroon and the Algerians only have one objective in their mind- win at all cost or draw at worse. This is where the Eagles have to stamp their big foot down very hard and show the Algerians that this is our home match and it is just 'fair' that we collect our 3 points and then later sometime when we go visiting, the onus will be on them to find how they can fairly or crookedly collect their 3 point. Meanwhile I will blame the media like completesports and others for putting fear in the mind of our players. That statement creditted to Mikel Obi that a "draw" will be satisfactory was uncall for and it tells us how the camp is- there is fear in the camp. You the media promote the Algerian team too much. All I have read the Algerians saying is to win away, not even a draw. So bold and self assured. I assure you the Algerians will fall  2-0. Alex Iwobi, Victor Moses, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ahmed Musa can open up any defence. They can be assisted by other attackers Brown Ideye, Ighalo Odion and Etebo Oghenekaro. The defence can be better managed by Leon Balogun and Ekong Troost, Omerua Ken, Elderson Echiejile, Midfield can be control by Mikel Obi, Ogu, Onazi. With Carl Ikeme out, the goalkeeper coach knows better who to manage that department. So no fear. Kindly help Nigerians call Obi and co tobe assured of our support from all corners of Nigeria.

  2. Thank you for your your article. Uncle weren't you so right? Victor Moses was the man yesterday night. He was the torn in Algeria;s flesh. I also liked your true and honest review and view of Rohr's performance nd impact on the Super Eagles considering you have been a strong advocate for Nigerian Coaches. Its good to be patriotic but dispassionate when it comes to football. I have always scracthed my head this past 2 years why we struggle with any team…even the lowet in Africa. The reason is clear to see why we did. All Nigerian coaches at all grades must be put through intensive mordern training immediately and this must be sustained and regular. This rot has already even crept into female football too where we will have better players but we can't organise them on the pitch to a win,Thank you again for this piece. God bless.

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