The Nigeria national team has been on a remarkable rise in recent times. The team has eclipsed all expectations by qualifying to the world cup and beating Argentina in a Friendly match just one year after failing to qualify for the Africa cup of Nations (AFCON).
The bulk of the credits should go to German tactician and Head coach, Gernot Rohr who has revolutionised the team and given Nigerians something to cheer. The team however face a tough test in Group D which also has old time rivals, Argentina, one of European biggest teams, Croatia and new comers Iceland who are waiting eagerly to prove themselves to the world.
The Nigerian team
The team were unbeaten throughout their World cup qualification campaign and boast of a superb record as they have only lost two games since Rohr’s first competitive match in charge, against Zambia.
Despite these achievements, the team needs fixing in some vital areas. The 30 man provisional list released by Gernot Rohr on Monday shows that Nigeria will not be enjoying the services of Enyeama (who has called it quit to international football) and Carl Ikeme (who is out of the team due to illness) in their goalkeeping department. Nigeria face a major problem in this session of their team. Recently organised friendly matches has proved that despite his high blood rush, Ezenwa still remains the best goalkeeper option the team has.
The others have failed to live up to expectations and if the Nigeria team are to do well in the world cup, special attention has to be given to Ezenwa to correct some mistakes he has made in the past in order to improve the team.
The central defence and left back position is also something that needs a working on. Recent friendly matches has indicated that the Nigeria defence is vulnerable to very pacy players and fast through balls. The manager might look to add pace and interception to the good tackling skills and aerial abilities already possessed by the Nigerian centre backs. Newly added Brian Idowu and Ola Aina will mount a serious competition on out of form Echejile and that is expected to bring out the best from the Cercle Brugge defender.
In the midfield, a little bit of flair and creativity might be needed as the starting three of Mikel, Onazi and Ndidi are defensive players. The negative effect of this is that the wingers will have to drop too deep to create chances for themselves instead of trying to run behind opposition defenders.
Group D is one of the toughest groups in this competition. Drawn alongside Nigeria are 2014 finalists, Argentina, Croatia and Iceland. All four teams have great qualification potentials. On Nigeria’s chances, much of it depends on their first group game against Croatia and the second against Iceland. Croatia boasts of a very robust midfield and a very deadly forward line.
UEFA best midfielder of 2017,Luka Modric is expected to captain the side on June 16th when they file out against the Super Eagles. A win against Croatia will mean Nigeria will only need to avoid defeat against Iceland and Argentina to progress. The Iceland team also pose a tough test.
After beating England in the 2016 European championship, the team has received great reviews and accolades and will want to prove themselves to the world. The Argentina team boasts of 5 time FIFA world player of the year and 2014 World cup Golden ball winner, Lionel Messi. Qualification from this group means Nigeria will face either France Australia, Peru or Denmark in the quarter finals.